City Magazine July-Michel F-Martell Interview

Cognac is running in his blood…Michel Firino-Martell

He got a pair of blue eyes, brown wavy hair, a handsome voice, a husky voice…with flow of words and style of graceful bearing that one would had thought he is a movie star from Hollywood. In fact, he is a typical French noble descent and the ninth generation of the famous Martell family.

Mr.Will Chan (W.C) :Can you tell us briefly your life experience?

Mr.Michel Firino-Martell (M.F-M): I was born a Martell as I am the ninth generation descendant of the family, I had my first taste of cognac at the age of eight. But, I didn’t join the family business until 1994 that was after I graduated from my Business Administration. I was stationed in New York city and then later on in Miami and Chicago, responsible for the family business in Northern America and Latin America.

In 1988 my family business was sold to a Canadian wine and spirit company – Seagram as Seagram wanted to develop the Asia market they badly needed a well-known cognac. They have other business which involved with movies productions and recording and later on they had taken over the business of Universal and at the time my father, the eight generation of Martell was the chairman of the new Martell company.

In 2001 Seagram decided to sell Martell cognac to Pernod-Ricard so Martell was back to the hand of the French again…

In 2002 I decided to depart Pernod-Ricard when I was based in Asia. I worked in Singapore for two years then another two years in San Francisco. In 2005, with my inborn resources endowment from my family and the strong support and suggestion from few of my best friends, I started my own business and of course not under the name of Martell.

W.C: What are the biggest differences between Cognac and others spirits?

M.F-M: You really want to know the answer? Well, people can get very good brandy, but with making of cognac it has to be double distilled and then store in oak cask for minimum two and half years. The oak that made the cask had to be coming from a specific area otherwise the product cannot be called ” Cognac”. The name “Cognac” is legally protected and can only be produced in Cognac area, which is located at the south west of Paris three hours by TVG trains.

“VS” in cognac means “Very Special”. In the past, England was the first country to import cognac from France. Perhaps, I have been talking too much about Cognac or may be I should be billing Pernod-Ricard…

W.C: What is Wines and Spirits mean to you?

M.F-M: Cognac is running in my blood…Ok, I am not going to talk about cognac anymore, my wife and I moved in Bordeaux. In fact, my daughter was born in Bordeaux. The decision of having my own wine business is a correct one because the wine business is on the growth; if i give you a figure you must be saying that I am ridicules – but if you look at the visitors at this Vinexpo Hong Kong and most of them are speaking Mandarin and they are from major cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen but the fact there is a lot of them coming from Wuxi, Chungking, Dalian and Wuhan. I can see the way how the wine business going in the future as before it will only be business in the special economic zone and big cities but now even with the inland cities in China. The whole wine business is growing and overall in big demand especially to red wines and beside that Champagne but not really hard spirits anymore.

W.C: If you are to leave the wines and spirits business, what will you do next?

M.F-M: Actor…I love acting but I think it is too late now…Do you know Alain Delon, my father knew him as my father used to be the sponsor for the film festival in Cognac every year and there was always an award for action movie that Alain was invited in. But, personally I would prefer Jean-Paul Belmondo and Sophie Marceau, she is not only a beauty but a style of typical French lady. In someway, I also like Catherine Deneuve she is very accomplished woman, just like Cognac…She is totally different to Sophie Marceau. Sophie Marceau is a beautiful woman, a goddess like Angelina Jolie. What else I can tell you, I also like Jacky Chan and I love martial arts. People like us that traveling to places need to know how to protect ourselves, of course Hong Kong is a very safe place. I learned boxing for five years and also Chinese martial arts but now I am learning Krav-Maga, it is a martial art training for the elite soldiers from Israel. The people in our trade have to entertain and eat very often so I have to keep fit, if not my wife will kick me out of the door!