There are few Champagnes that may accurately be described as voluptuous. Among those bottles are invariably Blanc de Blancs, Champagnes made exclusively from Chardonnay. They stand out in a blind tasting for their opulence, generosity and richness of fruit.
The house that became Champagne Taittinger was established in 1734 by Jacques Fourneaux, who planted vines at the Chateau de la Marquetterie near Epernay. The business lumbered along for the next two centuries until it was acquired by Pierre Taittinger, when it morphed from a wine estate into an empire that included Concorde Hotels, California’s Domaine Carneros and the Grand Véfour restaurant in Paris. The enterprise has been family owned since 1932 with the exception of 2005, when it was purchased by the Starwood group. Unhappy with the impersonal aspects of corporate control, the Taittinger family bought back the business one year later.
Taittinger has always been known as a lighter and more festive style of Champagne, with both the non-vintage and vintage blends evenly split between Chardonnay and black grapes (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier). While there’s nothing wrong with this as a stylistic expression, it has tended to reinforce the American concept that Champagne is a drink for the beginning and end of a meal, rather than a wine to accompany the main course. You might expect a Champagne made from 100% Chardonnay to be lighter still.
Their flagship wine, Comtes de Champagne, defies all those expectations. The wine is sourced from Taittinger’s best vineyards in the Côte des Blancs; extreme care is exercised during the production process, with only the first gentle pressing used for the blend, and the wine is aged for up to ten years before release. The result is a Champagne of great power and pinpoint finesse.
The Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2006 ($160) has a bright yellow color and persistent streams of tiny bubbles. The nose offers a profusion of lemon and vanilla scents, backed up by good acidity and whiffs of minerals. In the mouth, the Champagne is nothing short of luscious: creamy flavors of citrus and melon coat the tongue, giving way to a complex and layered mid palate that invites you to take another sip. The finish is long and mouthwatering, with the acidity amplifying the fruit.
Will it go with food? Absolutely, if you don’t mind it stealing the show. It would be a fine accompaniment to fish, shellfish and poultry in light preparations, with the dream match being Dover Sole.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation (Lyons Press, 2014); his first novel, Friend of the Devil, is now available from Black Opal Books. For more information, go to amazon.com