Champagne Taittinger is one of the few remaining family run negociants, with a wonderful history dating back to the 13th Century. The modern label of Taittinger, however, was formed in a much more modest, 1932 by Pierre Charles Taittinger when he bought the Forest-Fourneaux business including the Demeure des Comtes de Champagne in Reims. It is this home to Taittinger, with stories of Knights and castles, that dates back well into the 13th Century, and where the Counts of Champagne were received during coronations at Notre Dame in Reims. Thibaud IV is one of the more illustrious Comtes. Having fallen in love with the Queen, Blanche de Castille, he was exiled and went to fight in the Crusades. On his return he brought back the Holy Grail of finds, the ancestor to the Chardonnay grape, which is now used to create the Holy Grail of wines: Comtes de Champagne!

The estate, now in the hands of Pierre-Emmanuel, Clovis, and Vitalie Taittinger, is going from strength to strength and doesn’t appear to be losing site of the most important point. Keep your focus on the wine. Vincent Collard and Loic Dupont, Director of vineyards and cellarmaster respectively, appear to be doing epic work in this vein with 288 hectares in as diverse areas as Essoyes, Rilly la Montagne, Sezanne and Vitry le Francois.

The linear progression across the range is fascinating to taste. A surprising zing of meunier in the Brut Reserve, a wine heavy in Chardonnay, but giving good length. The Prestige Rose sings Ambonnay, a village they feel is very important in all their cuvees, with a touch of liquorice and blackcurrant. The Prelude is a huge step up with 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir from Mailly, Verzy, Verzenay and Chardonnay from Mesnil sur Oger, Oger, and Avize. So ripe, it sits beautifully on the palate. The vintage, I feel, needs plenty of time in the bottle. At 14 years it starts to show the type of secondary flavours that excite me but maintains it’s freshness. At 20 to 30 years, especially in magnum, it gains those wonderful rich buttery, nutty notes with hints of brioche and toast that I love.

Taittinger’s home in Pierry, Chateau de la Marquetterie, is surrounded to the north and west by a 13 hectare vineyard that gives the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay used to create the cuvee Folies de la Marquetterie, the odd one out in the range. A touch of oak, jammy, voluptuous and ripe with notes of dried fruit and apricot. Certainly a wine for food.

And so to Comtes… I have been very fortunate to taste almost every vintage of Comtes and feel very lucky to inform you that it, without exception, rocks. Thanks must be given to Thibault IV for delivering Chardonnay vines which, from the villages of Mesnil sur Oger, Avize, Cramant, Chouilly and Oger, create this superb prestige cuvee. Such structure, finesse and precision. A wine that is so accessible when young yet so drinkable in it’s maturity. It is one of the few wines that is a regular visitor in my cellar!

Taittinger Prelude

Fantastic Taittinger nose. Great grip. Fantastic acidity. Great wine.

Taittinger Brut Vintage

en Magnum. Cool year. Acquiring a deeper pee gold. Lovely biscuit nose. Sensational complexity on the palate, exploding with layers of texture and lemon pithe notes just at the end. Keeps expanding on the palate after you’ve finished. Lovely.

Taittinger Brut Vintage

en Magnum. 1989 was an early harvest in September. Staying yellow pee gold. Shellfish notes. Much more delicate on the palate. Bringing some spice and a touch of salinity. Quite lean in structure compared to the 1990. Buttered burnt toast. Noticeable imbalance compared to the 1990 and 1988.

Taittinger Brut Vintage

en Magnum. 1990 was a record year for sun exposure. Pee gold. Sweet nutty nose. Touch of mushrooms. Beautiful nose. Forest roots. Insane minerality. Rich, decadent with a vibrancy to the end palate that really kicks this wine on. Great concentration. Brioche. Nose is a touch austere after the 1989 and 1988! Acidity is powerful.