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1904-1930

Pleasure Wine: 1904-1930 Chartreuses

 

The Chartreuse of 1904-1930 (Tarragona)

 

Exiled by the French Government in April 1903, the Carthusian monks headed for Pinerolo (in Southern Italy), then made a stop in Farneta (Tuscany), before finally arriving in the Spanish city of Tarragona. There, they reunited with some of the Fathers who were sent as scouts in 1902. Since they couldn't sell their "Chartreuse" brand, as it had been confiscated by the French, the monks created a local operating company (or "Union Agricola", as it's known in Spanish) in order to commercialize their liqueurs in Spain. Soon after, they started designing new bottle formats (with a straighter neck and a "CAR" sigle on the label, for "Cartujos") and new brands calibrated for the French market. In June 1904, they exported their bottles to France for the first time.

The Parisian wine merchant Dubonnet was chosen as the Carthusian Fathers' official distributor. The bottles arrived in France without any issue but Dubonnet was forbidden to deliver them on the territory. The reason? The monks were accused of counterfeiting the Chartreuse brand that now belonged to the French Government. They would have to wait until 1907 to be able to sell their liqueur in the country. In 1908, another judgment officially allowed the Carthusians to use the "Chartreuse" brand outside of France. Thus, the Compagnie Fermière created by Émile Combes (the Prime Minister of France) and his liquidator Lecouturier couldn't sell its State Chartreuse (the infamous "Liquidatreuses") outside the country any longer. Still, they waged an open war against the Carthusian Fathers on French soil, copying the exact design of their Chartreuses (the only difference was the mention "Lith. Allier. Grenoble", that became "Imp. Lith. Grenoble"), hoping to confuse customers.

The monks later chose another French distributor for their products, to forget the bad experience they had with Dubonnet in 1904. They were now working with a Marseille-based wine merchant named Henri Durand, who was actually one of their close friends. Together, they founded the "Brézun, Durand & Co." company in 1906. They signed a contract with the Spanish Union Agricola and began selling the authentic Chartreuses in France, in 1907. The company was changed to "Brézun, Durand & Ripert" in January 1916, when Alfred Ripert joined the ranks. Marseille was now the main entry point of the Chartreuse brand in France.

When they exported their Chartreuse to France, every bottle was taxed (it was the tax stamps you can sometimes see glued to the bottle caps), so the monks wanted to lower their costs. Since they still were persona non grata in the country and thus couldn't build a new distillery, they simply decided to bring the Chartreuse in huge vats, by boat, and then embottle it in a warehouse located in Marseille. In 1930, it was the end of the road for Combes, Lecouturier and their associate Cusenier (in charge of supervising the "Liquidatreuses" production). The Compagnie Fermière they created filed for bankruptcy and a few friends of the Carthusians monks bought back the company. They renamed it the "Compagnie Française de la Grande Chartreuse" and started to hatch a plan for the return of the monks to France.

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