Last week I had the great pleasure of being invited to Taittinger and what an exceptional trip it was; extremely educational and great fun.
Taittinger is one of the last great Champagne Houses to remain independently owned and managed by the family itself. The origins date back to the 1700s and it has been in the hands of the Taittinger family from around the 1900s. The hallmark of Taittinger is the high proportion of Chardonnay used in their winemaking, creating great elegance and finesse in their champagnes. They own around 288 hectares of vineyards, one of the largest in Champagne, helping them guarantee a flawless signature style of consistent high quality. The Jewel in their crown is Comtes de Champagne, and this is what we had been invited to taste a vertical of, not only the Blanc de Blancs, but also the Rose. A great privilege indeed!
That evening we were invited to dinner at the stunning Chateau de la Marquetterie, hosted by the fabulous Pierre Emmanuel. This is the home of the Taittinger family; purchased after World War 1, by Pierre Taittinger. After being stationed near-by as a cavalry officer, he fell in love with Chateau de la Marquetterie and vowed he would buy it if he made it through the war. This dream became a reality and it is now the home of Taittinger.
Pierre Emmanuel is a very refreshing character; he has a great spirit with a deep love and passion for Taittinger. He was keen to remind us that drinking fine champagne should be fun and above all create lots of frivolity…. never should it be taken too seriously!
Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2006
Taittinger Les folies de la Marquetterie
Comtes de Champagne Rose 2000 – En Magnum
The Famous Gate Carneros 2012
Taittinger Nocturne Rose.
Cellar tour – the beautiful chalk cellars were established on the same site as the Abbey of Saint-Nicolas, built in the thirteenth century but which was sadly demolished. The cellars are the original of the Abbey, with parts dating from the fourth century.
Comtes de Champagne Futureteque tasting with Loic Dupont Cellar master/winemaker.
This was the highlight of the trip, a vertical tasting of the same wine side by side, trying a range of different vintages. Nothing can give you a better insight into the development and style of winemaking and vintages than this. To kick off we have the Blanc de Blancs from 2011-1990.
Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs:
Blend made only of Chardonnay coming from the most renowned vineyards of the prestigious Côte des Blancs, from 5 Grand Cru sites. First produced in 1952. It is not made every year. Matured for 8-10 years before release.
2011 – Challenging vintage, has not got a great reputation especially for the black grapes pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. But for Chardonnay they think it carries quality. It had been disgorged for 2 years. Very tight and young on the nose. Very creamy, lovely intensity, some notes of fresh pineapple, quiet rich and exotic. Fine and fresh well balanced good weight and intensity with a great zip of chalky minerality and acidity. Loic thinks this is similar to the 1983, has great aging capacity and promise to stay very fresh. Early harvest Aug – Only BdB made in 2011
2008 – Lots of oak in this vintage. Loic and the team think this is the vintage of the decade. Great acidity, freshness is present, great complexity. Loic has huge hope for this. Loic said he thought that the 2008 is better than the 2002. Lots of elegance, lots of character on the nose, very fresh and it hits you with complex flavours. Fine, intense, toasted brioche, oyster shells, citrus and blossom. Extremely tightly wound on palate, nutty aromas minerals chalky fine giving depth to the fruit. Lovely intensity and gorgeous balance. Round long. Power but elegance. Loic compares this to the 1985, a good balance between maturity and acidity.
2007 – Much more open knit on the nose, soft and approachable, very creamy, has some richness and is very fine. Lots of mouse, but delicate. Good levels of freshness. Much more forward; an early drinker.
2006 – Loic said this was a very good surprise. It shows great strong character. An excellent finesse, very rich and generous. Lots of complexity. An excellent result.
Toast and iodine, salty, very fine mousse, lovely evolution on the nose. Citrus fruits, honeysuckle and lovely fragrance of hazelnuts and pine nuts. Gorgeous layered complexity, richness and balance. Real elegance and poise with a vein of chalky mineral running through. A stunning champagne that has pure class. Weightless on the entry, but packs power and complexity on the mid palate. Lots of energy, great balance and acidity.
Loic mentioned that 05-06-07 have lots of generosity in the wines due to weather.
2005 – Mature year with average acidity. This vintage shows that acidity is not always needed for maturing. Fleshy apricot, very white Burgundy, Meursault esque. Honeyed round rich with underlying toast and mineral. Flavour profile very much on front palate lacks a little in the middle, falls a little flat on the depth of complexity and the fresh finish. Drink now.
2004 – Important harvest with high yield. Beautiful nose, very fragrant and high toned. Still showing signs of youth, tightly wound. Citrus notes, very elegant and chalky mineral driven. Hazelnuts, oyster shell in abundance. Some lovely toast, with white pear, flavours still tightly coiled, lots of intensity here, razor sharp! Lovely fresh and bright acidity, very nicely integrated giving a clean, fresh and long finish. You just keep wanting to go back to drink some more. In the glass it kept its clarity not added too much weight – very elegant. Excellent!
2002 – One of the best years of the last decade. Grapes had beautiful concentration. Very feminine nose very pretty and aromatic. At first you taste hints of citrus, floral notes, fresh nuts and toast; underneath this the next layer is slight evolution of toasty smoke, coconut, some fresh exotic fruits and caramelized orange, intermingled with some savoury notes showing the brooding depth and complexity. The finish is beautifully fresh with lovely lift. Very good.
1990 – Very rich year. One of the only years they are not allowed to chaptalize. All natural sugar comes from the grapes, showing the heat of the vintage. Dark golden in colour. Roasted pineapple, dark caramelized sugar; very rich, heady and evolved. Broad round and totally mouth filling, almost a meal in itself. This has a strong presence. Bitter sweet burnt orange, sherry notes, an oxidative style showing lots of maturity. This would be great with Comtes or aged Gruyere. Some may find this too evolved. Drinking now.
Comtes de Champagne Rosé:
Blend of Chardonnay from the Cotes des Blancs and Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims. Only juice from the first pressing is used in order to ensure the structure and long aging potential. 12% of the Pinot Noir from Bouzy is blended in as still red wine. It is only made in the best years. We tasted a flight from 2012-2004. The Rose is about structure, then fruit.
2012 – Nice year, cold winter. A year that much excitement surrounds. Harvest date – average. They have a lot of hope around this vintage. Very youthful colour. Red berry pink. Red berries on nose, rasp and strawberry’s very intense. Vibrant, very primary. But beautiful weight and balance. Very exciting future.
2009 – Salmon Pink, red berries on nose, with a little more maturity than 2012. Nice balance and flavours, good weight and structure. Vivid palate, ripe round creamy strawberry. They made no bdb just rose in 2009. The roundness has some acidity – but shows warmth. Forward and will be drinking well in a few years.
2008 – Very fresh and strong acidity. Higher toned fresh and elegant. Beautiful mouse. Again, raspberry, strawberry and cranberry notes. Gorgeous mouth feel with structure and minerals. Very serious offering. Tightly wound lovely zippy acidity with lots of energy. Long term keeper. Very vibrant. Excellent.
2007 – Confit aromas of dark red fruits and sherry. This is showing maturity and is already very forward. Dark colour of sherry garnet. Very open. Drink now, not for the long term. Earthy spice similar to paprika, liquorice, meaty maturity. Good with tapas/dried meats. Mushrooms savoury. Drink now.
2006 – Fine and delicate vintage. This is more like it! Much prettier very fresh and fragrant, very lifted. Cherry, raspberry wild strawberry, blossom and cream. Elegant fresh. This for me outclassed everything else. It is totally my style. Energy and intensity and great beauty. Wonderful structure, that has grip, depth and weight, it also delivers purity of flavours and shows enormous elegance. On the palate, the initial fruitiness quickly intensifies and leads into a rich, structured mid-palate and a generous finish that maintains balance and freshness. Rose is about structure, then fruit, this hits the nail on the head. Serious – Excellent. Very good.
2005 – Round and broad, dark and powerful. Again that earthly charterer with some slight spice. Paprika. Much more broad structure nice flavour of fruit, fresh very powerful and broad. Lots of savoury development, cassis. Drinking now. Brooding fruits intensity lovely – very good!
2004 – Little closed very fresh in month. Lovely creamy round mouse, again nice structure, taught very nice red fruit flavours. Lots of intensity very tightly wound hints of savoury spice coming through. Very refreshing.
Key is with good vintages they really develop character and personality with age.
Lunch – Clovis Taittinger.
Carneros Le Reve 2008
Taittinger Prelude Grand Crus
Comtes de Champagne Rose 2006
Taittinger Prestige Rose, En Jeroboam