The name Taittinger will be well known to Champagne drinkers. It is one of the region’s top 5 largest producers and is one of Champagne’s original Grande Marques, a syndicate of 24 of the top houses that includes Bollinger, Krug, Pol Roger, Dom Perignon, among others. They are thought of as among the most elite and prestigious producers within Champagne. Taittinger is also known for its extensive vineyard holdings, 700 acres, among the largest in Champagne, that supply about 50% of the grapes Taittinger ferments in a typical year.
Taittinger dates back to 1734 when Jacques Fourneaux founded the Champagne House Forest-Fourneaux. Fourneaux established good relationships with many of the Benedictine Monks who controlled most of the best vineyards within the Champagne region at the time. In the 1930s, Forest-Fourneaux fell upon hard times and in 1932, a French soldier turned wine merchant by the name of Pierre Taittinger acquired the business. This included the beautiful Chateau de la Marquetterie which Pierre had spent time convalescing in while it was being used as a French command post during the First World War.
We toured and tasted at Champagne Taittinger as part of the tour of Champagne and Alsace hosted by Iberian wine tours. Our tour began at the winery itself, located in the Champagne regions principal city, Reims. There we saw their impressive winemaking facilities and famous cellars. At the winery we tasted Taittinger’s NV Brut Champagne and the NV Brut Rosé Champagne.
Both wines reveal the house style which aims for elegance and finesse. Emphasis is therefore on the Chardonnay grape.
Everyone in our group was very impressed with these two entry level wines and amazed that a large house making large production runs of these wines could achieve such quality. But the real highlight of the tour was the lunch that Taittinger put on for us in the beautiful Chateau de la Marquetterie.
The Chateau de Marquetterie plays an important role in history of Champagne Taittinger. The Chateau so impressed Pierre during his stay that he became determined to buy it if ever he had the means and is in many ways at the foundation of Champagne Taittinger.
It was also the home of Thibaud IV le Chansounier, King of Navarre and a key influence on the politics, arts and economy of Champagne during his reign from 1222 to 1253. Thibaud was the most famous of the Counts of Champagne, or in French, the Comtes de Champagne, known for his abilities as a poet, a singer, a conqueror and for his very fine tastes that defined high class during his time. Thibaud went off to war to prove his worthiness to Blanche de Castille, the woman he would eventually marry. His refined tastes, varied talents and deep romanticism make him a perfect icon for Taittinger’s top Champagne, the Comtes de Champagne.
The Chateau de la Marquetterie is a stunning building, built very much in the tradition of grand French Chateaux. It is used by the winery now only to hold the occasional event and we were very lucky to be served a sumptuous lunch there. To our great surprise, we were greeted as we entered the Chateau with a glass of Taitinger’s Comtes de Champagne by secrétaire general Jean-Pierre Redont. Comtes de Champagne has long been a personal favourite of ours, so we were very excited to start our lunch in such high style.
The vintage served was the recently released 2012.
This vintage, like all Comtes de Champagne, is a blanc de blanc, meaning it is made only from Chardonnay grapes. As the tasting notes below will reveal, this was an amazing Comtes de Champagne, quite possibly the best vintage we have tasted.
In addition to the Comtes de Champagne, three other Taittinger Champagnes were served with our delicious lunch. Great thought was put into pairing the wines with the food, and when done well, this effort yields great rewards. The Champagnes enhanced the food, and the food enhanced the enjoyments of the Champagnes. The beautiful surroundings of the Chateau de Marquetterrie made the meal just that much more special.
Taittinger NV Brut
For all of the Champenois, especially the big houses, their non-vintage brut is their biggest production and the cuvée that the house’s reputation rests upon.
The Grande Marques produce literally millions of bottles per year of non-vintage brut Champagne. While prestige may be linked to their Tête de cuvée, or other high-end bottlings, reputation and overall success is firmly in the hands of their NV brut. That said, Taittinger is in no need of worry, as their NV brut is among the handful of the very top NV Bruts available on the marketplace today. Pick the reason why: the very high percentage of owned vineyards; the commitment of a family enterprise; or the history and experience. Surely all of these factors come together in the making of this fabulous NV Brut. The result is an elegant, effervescent sparkler that shows pear with notes of lemon and lime and slight hints of bread dough. The 9 grams per litre of dosage is expertly judged; enough to create body, balance the acidity and without creating sweetness. A delicious wine sold at a fair price. In our minds, alongside Roederer, the finest readily available NV Brut in the market. Highly recommended.
Taittinger NV Brut Rosé
Taittinger’s Rosé has 15% still red wine added to the cuvée, leading to a dark pink colour in the glass. Medium+ body with flavours of strawberry and apple skin. A sturdier wine than the NV Brut blanc, this wine has presence as well as stature. The finish is long and dry. A perfect accompaniment to shell fish, cooked or raw.
2012 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne
First of all, let it be known that Comtes de Champagne is definitely among our very favourite Champagnes.
This was our first experience with the 2012 vintage and this may very well be the best Comtes we have yet tasted. This wine has everything. Gold in colour, a wonderful entrée to the texture that is about to be revealed. There are flavours of green and red apple, lemon curd, roasted nuts, warm brioche and hints of honey. As this wonderfully complex wine unfurls in the glass, the various notes take turns at being the lead and then stepping back and letting another have centre stage. Comtes always has a wonderful texture; while linear and true to its blanc de blancs (100% Chardonnay) roots, it has a richness as well. Combined with that laser-like definition, this creates a Champagne unlike any other. Truly, it is the iron fist in the velvet glove. Viscosity and precision seldom go together in a tasting note, but once again it is à propos for this Comtes de Champagne. A triumph of winemaking. The best modern day Comtes? We think so.
2015 Taittinger Millesime
The critics have been very positive about the 2015 vintage in Champagne. This is one of the first wines we have tasted from this vintage, and if this Millesime is any indication, the critics have got it right. Made of equal parts of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the fruit for this cuvée comes from 70% Grand Cru and 30% Premier Cru vineyards. This is a dialed up and more intense wine. Pastry and bread dough mixes with honey, almonds and hints of pear. The texture is quite full and very satisfying. There is a slight saline hint on the very long finish. A delicious wine.
NV Taittinger Nocturne
This is Taittinger’s entry into the “sec” or slightly sweet category. At 18 grams/litre dosage, this added sugar gives the wine more body than it does overt sweetness. We would describe as just subtly sweet, hardly noticeable. In other words, dry Champagne fans should not be scared off trying this! This wine has good body and a lively mousse. We get notes of apple crumble, almonds, honey, cinnamon and other baking spices.
9 Place Saint-Nicaise