The Pinnacle of Blanc de Blanc Champagne

Today’s Story: Champagne Taittinger

Champagne Taittinger is a well-regarded and rather large Champagne house established in 1932 in Reims, France by Pierre Taittinger. Though the château and property came into Taittinger family ownership in 1932, the estate traces its roots back much further to the year 1734. In that year, Jacques Fourneaux started his wine business in Champagne by working with the Benedictine Abbeys who owned much of the finest vineyard land at the time. Following Pierre’s purchase of the estate from the house of Forest-Fourneaux, the Taittinger family began their incredibly run of producing some of the finest wines of the Champagne region. Pierre’s son François took over the family domaine in 1945, building out the cellars within 13th century chalk pits and expanding the vineyards. From then onward to the start of the 21st century, Taittinger became a Champagne house of the highest quality and of world renown. The estate remained in the family until 2005 when it was sold to the US private equity firm Starwood Capital Group, however the family re-purchased Champagne Taittinger shortly after.

Taittinger is well known for its Chardonnay-dominant wines, especially the Prestige Cuvée bottling of Comtes de Champagne. Today the family estate consists of 288 hectares (711 acres) of vineyards, of which roughly half is planted to Pinot Noir with Chardonnay and small holdings of Pinot Meunier accounting for the rest. Their own holdings make up for about half of the total production, though, so acting as a négociant Taittinger purchases the rest of its fruit from a number of growers with longstanding ties to the house. While the full Taittinger portfolio is rather robust, the top bottling of Comtes de Champagne (which I’m reviewing today) is worth isolating.

The Comtes de Champagne was introduced with the 1952 vintage as a Blanc de Blanc (100% Chardonnay) bottling of the highest magnitude. Fruit for this bottling comes mainly, if not entirely, from Grand Cru vineyards and winemaking, including use of oak, is meant to minimize an outside touch. Oak usage is meant solely to impart additive flavors such as brioche and nuts (almond, hazelnut, etc.), and the wines spend eight to ten years in the chalk pits before release. These wines are often said to be the best and purest expression of Blanc de Blanc Champagne, so without further delay…

Today’s Wine: 1998 Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne

100% Chardonnay; 12% ABV

The 1998 Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne is medium gold in color with delicate effervescence in the glass. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the complex nose offering up notes of baked yellow apple, Asian pear, white peach, lemon cream, crème brûlée, brioche, browned butter, white chocolate, hazelnut, and chalk. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium (+) intensity and the palate showcases notes of green apple, lemon meringue, lime zest, underripe pear, white floral, chalk, buttercream, brioche, and saline minerality. This dry Champagne is full-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish. This is an outstanding wine with at least another decade of optimal drinking, as it comes across quite youthful today.

Price: $280. Though there are certainly better “values” out there when it comes to Champagne, I think this is of the caliber to be worth its price. It has great complexity, depth, balance, and a long finish while being incredibly youthful and age-worthy. A great vintage for Comtes de Champagne.

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