We have for a long time tried to get hold of the Comtes de Champage with age. Which has been a dilemma when the company historically had to improve the finances of the company as they sold a lot of Taittingers grapes to others. Whereupon also sold out almost everything they had in the cellars. Since 2002, however, Taittinger started to build a new reference oenothèque of Comtes de Champagne. Here we have a situation similar with Cristal. Buy everything you come across, and early. If you do not plan to pay quite a lot for your mature Comtes de Champagne, of course.
THE TASTING ‘BACK TO THE FUTURE AND RETROSPECTIVE’ We assembled an initiated tasting group with a sharp sense of Champagne in general and Comtes de Champagne in particular at The Champagne Bar by Richard Juhlin in Stockholm to try a small but very exciting vertical of Comtes de Champagne.
2006 TAITTINGER ‘FUTURE VERISON OF COMTES de CHAMPAGNE’
Reims | Champagne | France | Taittinger | Swedish importer: Fondberg | 100CH | RJ 89(95)
TASTINGNOTE ‘A shy and truly beautiful Comtes that intrigue us with it’s sublime charm. Really very early days for this one. A pre-version from the cellars of Taittinger. Very young and a bit of unrelieved when drinking too close to disgorgement. In a few months, the direct charm and elegance shine even brighter. A classic and beautifully composed Comtes.’
2005 TAITTINGER ‘COMTES de CHAMPAGNE’
Reims | Champagne | France | Taittinger | Swedish importer: Fondberg | 100CH | RJ 94(97)
TASTINGNOTE ‘A truly wonderful wine from the start. As usual, they succeed particularly well in warm, acid-weak vintages, when the neighbors’ wines often appears flat and publicly simplistic. Despite the fact that the acid is not particularly accentuated here either, the vineyards aromatic citrus fresh touch, manage to leave a fresh uplifting side to the creamy fat smoothness. The finish is certainly chalky and elegant, but it raises to heavenly heights with a 76-like butterscotch soft, warm, sweet flavored embracing pillow. Magnum is still undeveloped and crispy.’
2004 TAITTINGER ‘COMTES de CHAMPAGNE’
Reims | Champagne | France | Taittinger | Swedish importer: Fondberg | 100CH | RJ 92(95)
TASTINGNOTE ‘Ultra-youthful, almost distressing fresh mineral and rock hard stony toasted. Everything is in place though and time will bring classic beauty. Unexpected that this bottle and vintage would be the on offering the most drinkability at the moment!’
2002 TAITTINGER ‘COMTES de CHAMPAGNE’
Reims | Champagne | France | Taittinger | Swedish importer: Fondberg | 100CH | RJ 93(96)
TASTINGNOTE ‘First pressing only. 5% were stored in new French oak. 100% malolactic fermentation, 10 years on the lees. The first time I tasted this was before an early summer lunch in the garden behind La Marquetterie overlooking the vineyards of Pierry. It was crazy tight as it was just disgorged a few weeks earlier. Nowadays it will develop in the glass and is packed with fruit for the future (juni’10). Just three months later, you could already see the grandeur and feel the concentration. Nowadays, we can all see and feel the greatness of this great year. In this vintage just 35,000 bottles was made, which is 100 000 bottles less than normal, so there will be fights on the dense lime-scented power-bbd when it wakes up from its beauty sleep. Roasted notes has subsided in favor of a fabulously nice candied limes notes. The acidity carries the wine in a very compelling way. I understand that the 600 bottles released on Systembolaget 6 December’12 went out of the cellar faster than You can say ….’
2000 TAITTINGER ‘COMTES de CHAMPAGNE’
Reims | Champagne | France | Taittinger | Swedish importer: Fondberg | 100CH | RJ 92(94)
TASTINGNOTE ‘Fine Champagne Magazinevoted this as the best champagne they tested in 2011. Wonderful that they got their senses back when one year earlier they had The Mickey Mouse-Champagne ‘Ace of Spades’ by Armand de Brignac as the winner. First pressing only. 5% were stored in new French oak. 100% malolactic fermentation, 10 years on the lees. Will be similar to the ’99. Today minerals are excessive and a bit closed in magnum, but oh so beautiful it is! Extremely roasted almost flinty right now. Some people think that this is at its peak now. Strings of banana (!), chocolate, nuttiness. Butter fried hazelnuts, and burgundy-like. Acidity fades in the finish. I think this is a brilliant champagne if you want to know what a typical Comtes de Champagne is. This vintage has everything what I expect.’
1999 TAITTINGER ‘COMTES de CHAMPAGNE’
Reims | Champagne | France | Taittinger | Swedish importer: Fondberg | 100CH | RJ 95(95)
TASTINGNOTE ‘Tasted as “prerelease” a few weeks after disgorging. Totally sealed and retiring at present. The structure is however impeccable so we have in all certainty a classical, creamy Comtes to look forward to. Now at its peak. Beautiful creamyness and toastyness.’
1998 TAITTINGER ‘COMTES de CHAMPAGNE’
Reims | Champagne | France | Taittinger | Swedish importer: Fondberg | 100CH | RJ 94(95)
TASTINGNOTE ‘So far this is a fresh, lemon-crispy package of mineral without the slightest “Comtes” maturity. Store!!! All right, not as sharp any longer, some toastiness started to appear during the spring of 2007, and butterscotch plumpness in the spring of 2008. 1998 is a slightly puzzling vintage when most have low alcohol like the 95:s and showed a direct charm of the first wines were launched like the aforementioned reference vintage. Then a whole bunch of strange oxidative notes developed. I was then informed by winemakera that told me this was because the harvest was a little problematic, and that those who harvested a little earlier were clean, elegant but a little low-alcohol wines. Those who waited, usually the biggest names, suffered a sudden maturation of the oxidative notes of windfall apples. This means that some wines are therefore a mixture of healthy and overripe grapes that give an unbalanced character. This whole reasoning was long a truth. Chardonnay asserts itself a little better in 1998 than in 1999.’
1996 TAITTINGER ‘COMTES de CHAMPAGNE’
Reims | Champagne | France | Taittinger | Swedish importer: Fondberg | 100CH | RJ 96(97)
TASTINGNOTE ‘Of course, far too young, and as surely far too tempting to drink right now because the wine is already mighty tasty. More width than length so far. More nuttiness and breadiness than exoticism in the current state. Is sure to be another classic. Starting to get there as early as autumn 2007. Clear as a bell and stunningly beautiful! 2011 perhaps the most drinkable and best of all 96’s. Close to full maturity with lot of roasted and toffee richness.’
1995 TAITTINGER ‘COMTES de CHAMPAGNE’
Reims | Champagne | France | Taittinger | Swedish importer: Fondberg | 100CH | RJ 97(97)
TASTINGNOTE ‘Fantastically delicious and ultra-sophisticated. The balance has found its footing from the start. Floral, toasty, fruity, buttery, perfumed, honey-soft, refreshing, stony, elegant, crisp, toffee-drenched, nutty. It doesn’t matter which positive adjectives one uses. All you seek shall be yours! Good maturity even on magnum.’
1988 TAITTINGER ‘COMTES de CHAMPAGNE’
Reims | Champagne | France | Taittinger | Swedish importer: Fondberg | 100CH | RJ 96(96)
TASTINGNOTE ‘As with so many ’88s, almost hard in its stringency when it was introduced. At the turn of the millennium, there was a nutty weight and veils of mint aromas that were waiting to burst out in full bloom. At the end of 2003 it happened—the wine became even oilier, mintier, and fleshier than I’d understood. Wonderfully good and completely in line with the best vintages of the 1970s. With an almond, truffle and petroleum style in 2007.’
WHAT IS MY FAVORITE OF ALL TIME? Which then is the greatest Comtes ever made? The answer to both questions is 1976! With 1976 Comtes de Champagne in the glass you need nothing else. You will find yourself in a constant euphoria at least a week after the last drop passed your throat. I promise! In my book, it is one of the ten best champagnes I have ever drunk. A classic! Never before had I tasted anything so exotic, fruity and enjoyable. It still stands up very well, even if the character changed a lot. Th notes of butteriness has now been replaced by a huge aroma and taste of sweet lemons. It can be found in many mature champagnes but never so clearly as in the Comtes de Champagne ’76. Probably the world’s best champagne!
RJ ON TAITTINGER The house of Forneaux, as Taittinger’s predecessor was called, was among the first Champagne houses when founded in 1734. The company’s financial upturn came when the Taittinger family bought it in 1936. Pierre Taittinger purchased a palace called La Marquetterie and built up an impressive arsenal of vineyards. Claude Taittinger, took over in 1960 and Pierre-Emanuel and his son Clovis Taittinger and stylish doughter are following the same quality path.
The company now has 288 hectares in 34 villages, which supply some 45 percent of its grape needs. Experiments with small numbers of new oak barrels began in 1988 with the prestige wine Comtes de Champagne otherwise all the wines are fermented in large steel tanks and put through malolactic fermentation. The firm is well known for its efforts to support major projects outside the local region. For example, the company owns one hotel chain, two wine companies in the Loire Valley, and one wine company in California. The artist-designed Collection bottles have become a huge success in sales terms, in spite of the exorbitant prices that will soon become even dearer. The nonvintage Champagne was a touch uneven earlier, but it often reflects the soft, flowery house-style well. The vintage wine is a real charmer, which sometimes sadly lacks storage potential.
The real star is the Comtes de Champagne, an exemplary blanc de blancs from Cramant, Avize, Oger, Le Mesnil, Chouilly, and old vines in Pierry. The champagne is the best in its style, with its soft, exotic, and creamy taste. I imagine that the Comtes de Champagne is the champagne most appreciated by the broadest public. It contains no difficult aromas, but instead an abundance of charmingly sweet and soft tastes in an elegant and luxurious style. In any case, it contains an aromatic spectrum that is exciting enough for even the most fastidious expert to fall head over heels for its beauty. Even Comtes de Champagne Rosé can be a treat if you have patience. This champagne—made by contact with Pinot Noir grapeskins from Ambonnay and Bouzy—can appear sweet and clumsy when young, but it usually develops magically. Gentle Loïc Dupont is the man responsible for how these wines taste. Very close to five stars!
Photos by Raphaël Cameron