Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Cellar Visit and Tasting at the Champagner House Taittinger in Reims, Champagne - Burgundy (and Champagne) 2016 Tour by ombiasy WineTours
The Champagne House Taittinger was founded in 1734 by Jacques Fourneaux, who worked closely with the Benedictine Abbeys who owned the finest vineyards at that time. In 1932, Pierre Taittinger bought the Château de la Marquetterie from the wine house of ForestFourneaux. Taittinger has extensive vineyard holdings of 752 acres, including prestigious Grand Cru vineyards. Highestquality production: exceeding minimum aging for all cuvées, high percentage of estate grapes, sustainable practices, use of a higher proportion of Chardonnay grapes in its blends than other large houses—this all gives the Taittinger’ Champagne a unique personality.
We toured the cellars of Taittinger (with another group). After the tour, we were all treated to a NV Champagne Taittinger Brut. In addition, Annette had arranged for a tasting of 3 additional Taittinger Champagnes.
10 Things Every Wine Lover Should Know About... Taittinger
Caroline Henry has published an excellent article on the wine-searcher website on October 16, 2013:
No. 1. Taking instruction from monks:
The house of Taittinger did not exist until 1932. For nearly two centuries, it was known as Forest-Fourneaux.
Originally founded in 1734 by Jacques Fourneaux, a wealthy textile merchant, the house worked closely with local Benedictine monks to learn how to produce still and sparkling wines.
In 1820, Jacques’ great-grandson Jérôme formed a partnership with Antoine Forest and the business started to boom, especially in export markets such as Britain and the United States. Forest-Forneaux originally marketed its wines under the name of each village – e.g. "vins d’Aÿ," "vins de Sillery," and "vins de Bouzy" – rather than using the generic Champagne name.
No. 2. The shadows of war:
Pierre Taittinger first visited Champagne as an officer in World War I. When he was injured during combat he was transferred to the 18th-century Château de la Marquetterie, a major French command post south of Épernay. The young Taittinger was so impressed by the elegance, beauty and history of the building that he vowed to buy it if the opportunity ever arose.
By the 1930s, Forest-Fourneaux's fortunes were dwindling: World War I, the Great Depression, and Prohibition had all taken their toll. Exports were almost at a standstill.
Pierre Taittinger saw his opportunity to buy the property. As wine merchants originally from Lorraine, the Taittingers decided to use their existing network and relaunch the Champagne business under the family name. Over the next few decades Taittinger established itself as one of the region's leading brands, joining the Syndicat des Grandes Marques in the 1950s.
Folies de la Marquetterie, a single-vineyard wine, was the first Champagne produced under the Taittinger brand. The vines were originally planted by Brother Jean Oudart, who worked closely with Dom Pérignon, making it one of the house's most-coveted wines.
No. 3. Caves for cuvées:
Taittinger is one of only five Champagne houses to cellar its wines in the famous "Crayères" of Reims – chalk caves originally dug out by the Romans. The caves were rediscovered at the beginning of the 18th century and Champagne merchants found that they provided the perfect conditions for aging wine. Today, Taittinger owns four kilometers of Crayères, which are used to age their prestige cuvées: Comtes de Champagne and Comtes de Champagne Rosé.
No. 4. Comtes de Champagne:
The large 13th-century mansion on the Rue de Tambour in Reims, now Taittinger's headquarters, was once home to royalty: Theobald IV, who reigned over Champagne from 1222, lived in the palace.
A long-standing legend claimed it was Theobald who brought the chardonnay grape to the region from Cyprus after leading a crusade to the Holy Land. However, this has been disproved by UC Davis researchers. Nevertheless, Taittinger’s cuvée prestige is named Comtes de Champagne in his honor. Not surprisingly, the wine is 100 percent chardonnay.
No. 5. Closing ranks:
In the 1990s, the Taittinger family vastly expanded their business and invested heavily in other luxury products. This eventually led to cash-flow and other financial problems, resulting in the sale of the Taittinger brands in July 2005 to the American-owned Starwood Hotel Group.
The sale was badly received by the Champagne-producing community. They feared the new owners would pursue short-term profitability over quality, upsetting the equilibrium of the Champagne industry.
But salvation came in the form of Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger. Claude’s nephew had always been opposed to the 2005 sale of the family company to Starwood, says his daughter Vitalie. He is a third-generation member of the Champagne family and started work in 1976 as a sales rep before slowly climbing up the ladder. When he showed interest in repurchasing the business the industry united to negotiate a deal with the Starwood group and Crédit Agricole. On May 31, 2006, the Taittinger family resumed ownership of the company.
No. 6. Scoring a goal
Taittinger will be the official Champagne at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The family lays claim to a strong link with soccer. Pierre-Emmanuel recalls that the only time he was allowed to watch television as a youngster was on June 6, 1959. Real Madrid and Stade de Reims were playing in the final of the Coupe d’Europe des Clubs, now called the Champions League. In the live telecast from Stuttgart, Taittinger watched his father, Jean, who had just been elected mayor of Reims, start the game.
No. 7. Grape growers:
With 288 hectares of vines, the Taittinger family are one of the largest vineyard owners in Champagne. Their holdings provide half of their needs for their annual Champagne production. Such extensive vineyard ownership is viewed as a way to control quality, but the company also concentrates on workforce management.
A system of task-related employee contracts has been adopted over the last 20 years at Taittinger, replacing hourly contracts. Today, each employee has sole responsibility for about three hectares of vines, including a requirement to meet specified yields. In other words, they work in a similar way to independent growers and are paid by the task rather than by the hour.
Vincent Collard, Taittinger's vineyard manager, believes “this system assures the quality” of the estate's wines. He says it encourages workers to complete their allotted tasks within specified time frames and to the standards required.
No. 8. The California connection:
At the end of the 1970s, Claude Taittinger developed an interest in producing quality sparkling wine in California. He partnered up with his American distributor, Kobrand, in 1987 to purchase 56 hectares of land in Carneros – one of the cooler sub-regions in Napa. Together, they launched Domaine Carneros.
The Napa sparklers produced by the estate are never going to be Champagne. However, Rick Bakas, social media whizz and sommelier at the Michelin-starred Farmhouse Inn in Sonoma, puts Domaine Carneros in his top three Californian sparkling wines. Ed Hodson, sommelier at Starling Diner in Long Beach, California, views them as good-value sparkling wines, providing "complexity, balance and structure for less money" than Champagne.
No. 9. Champagne pricing:
Champagne is often more expensive than other wines. The region's production costs sit between 10 and 15 euros ($13–$20) per bottle, excluding marketing and distribution costs. Vitalie believes her wines are “fairly priced,” not least because “making Champagne is an expensive and elaborate process which takes time. The quality is heavily impacted by the aging period, and you cannot afford to age extensively if you are not willing to reflect this in the price," she explains.
On both sides of the pond, retailers and sommeliers seem to agree with Taittinger’s pricing policy. According to U.K.-based wine expert Robert Joseph, “all Taittinger’s Champagnes, bar the rosé, are generally well priced in the U.K market.” In the U.S., Hodson says the non-vintage cuvée, in particular, is good value for money: "Few can compete with its quality to price ratio at below $40 retail."
No. 10. What the experts say:
Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne is one of the most recognized and loved Champagnes. In 2012, it was elected "Best Champagne" by Fine Champagne Magazine, and the 2002 vintage was Bettane and Desseauve’s top pick to bring in the new year in 2013.
Tyson Stelzer, author of "The Champagne Guide," notes: “Taittinger’s depth of reach into the Côte des Blancs grand crus has made Comtes de Champagne one of Champagne’s most consistent blanc de blancs, and every even vintage since 1996 has been nothing short of transcendental.”
We tasted 4 Taittinger Champagnes
NV Taittinger Brut Reserve(wine-searcher average price in US$: 53)
NV Taittinger Brut Prestige Rosé (wine-searcher average price in US$: 69)
NV Taittinger Prélude Grands Cru Brut (wine-searcher average price in US$: 82)
2008 Taittinger Brut Millésimé (wine-searcher average price in US$: 85)
Postings: Burgundy (and Champagne) 2016 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: From Lyon to Reims - Wine, Food, Culture and History (Published and Forthcoming Postings)
Burgundy (and Champagne) 2016 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: From Lyon to Reims - Wine, Food, Culture and History
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Introduction to the Burgundy Wine Region at Antic Wine in Lyon with Flying Sommelier Georges Dos Santos - Burgundy (and Champagne) 2016 Tour by ombiasy WineTours
Lunch at L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges, Paul Bocuse’s Iconic Restaurant in Collonges au Mont d’Or, France - Burgundy (and Champagne) 2016 Tour by ombiasy WineTours
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Lunch at Restaurant Le Mercurey in Mercurey - Bourgogne (and Champagne) Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours
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Dinner at the 1 Michelin Star Restaurant Ed.Em in Chassagne Montrachet - Bourgogne (and Champagne) Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours
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Lunch and Wine Tasting at La Table de Olivier in Puligny Montrachet with Olivier Leflaive – Bourgogne (and Champagne) Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016, France
Visit: Hospices de Beaune – Bourgogne (and Champagne) Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016, France
Lunch in a Typical French Brasserie: Le Carnot in Beaune - Burgundy (and Champagne) 2016 Tour by ombiasy WineTours
Visit and Tasting: Maison Joseph Drouhin in Beaune – Bourgogne (and Champagne) Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours, France
Schiller’s Favorite Wine Bars in Beaune, Bourgogne
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Tasting at Domaine Faiveley in Nuits St. Georges - Bourgogne (and Champagne) Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours
Tasting from Barrel at Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron in Prémeaux-Prissey, Côte de Nuits, with Owner/ Winemaker Louis Meunier - Burgundy (and Champagne) 2016 Tour by ombiasy WineTours
Lunch at Restaurant La Cabotte in Nuits-Saint-George - Bourgogne (and Champagne) Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours
Tasting at Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair in Nuits-Saint-George, from Barrel and from Bottle, with Thibault Liger-Belair - Bourgogne (and Champagne) Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours
Visit of Château du Clos de Vougeot - Bourgogne (and Champagne) Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours
Where the Most Expensive Red Wines Come from: Vineyard Walk, Cellar Tour and Tasting at Domaine Anne Gros in Vosne-Romanée, Côte de Nuits - Bourgogne (and Champagne) Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours
Cellar Tour and Tasting at Domaine Guillon & Fils in Gevrey-Chambertin, Côte de Nuits, with Jean-Michel Guillon - Bourgogne (and Champagne) Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours
An Institution: Lunch at Restaurant Chez Guy in Gevrey-Chambertin - Bourgogne (and Champagne) Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours
Cellar Tour and Tasting at Domaine Armelle et Bernhard Rion in Vosne Romanée, Côte de Nuits - Bourgogne (and Champagne) Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours
Tour at Fontenay Abbey (Bernard de Clairveau), Montbard - Bourgogne (and Champagne) Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours
Wine Pairing Lunch, Cellar Visit, Vineyard Tour and Tasting at Domaine Jean Marc Brocard in Préhy, Chablis – Bourgogne (and Champagne) Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours, France
Schiller’s Favorite Wine Bars and other Wine Venues in Chablis, France
Champagne – An Introduction, France
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Cellar Visit and Tasting at the Champagne House AR Lenoble in Epernay, with Christian Holthausen - Burgundy (and Champagne) 2016 Tour by ombiasy WineTours
Cellar Visit and Tasting at the Champagner House Taittinger in Reims, Champagne
Lunch at Brasserie Flo in Reims