The Return of the Taittingers: the 2006 Comtes de Champagne Releases

The New Year is underway, but there’s no reason to stop sipping bubbly. This is especially so when it comes to landmark occasions. When only the best will do, I choose wines whose backgrounds I know well, too. That’s why Taittinger Comtes de Champagne will be at the top of my list this year.

In a time when 20-year-olds are either Google prodigies or career college students, it is hard to image that Pierre Taittinger began building his Champagne legacy at age 20. He wouldn’t even be legal to drink in the US today! Yet almost 84 years ago, after having served in the Champagne region during World War I, he purchased a tattered bubbly business (originally established in 1734.)

Decades and a new century later, the highly successful family business eventually branched out into other luxury goods. As fate would have it, the second son of the founder, Claude, sold the business to Starwood Hotels in 2005. Certain family members were distraught, including Claude’s nephew, Pierre-Emmanuel. Not even a year later, Pierre-Emmanuel repurchased and rescued the family treasure, launching the next era of Taittinger Champagne.

As such, it was particularly poignant to taste the 2005 and 2006 Comtes de Champagne together last fall. One was from a vintage that “got away”; the other marked the Taittinger family’s swift return.

These vintages offer strikingly different styles that show clearly the mark of their growing seasons. The 2005s are ample, but not as much as the even more generous and noticeably less-chiseled 2006s. The 2005 vintage started early, dry and warm but was a more even-keeled vintage overall. The 2006 growing season, on the other hand, worried growers with unusually hot weather in June and July followed by a rainy August that delayed the harvest about a week behind the 2005 schedule. In the end, my notes show the two vintages should likely keep well for about the same amount of time (easily another ten years). The 2006s are more open now, but the 2005s drink well, too, just in a more reserved and minerally manner. While the 2006s works well alone or with food, I feel the 2005s work best at the table. This is true both for the Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay) and the Rosés (70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay.) For you geeks out there, all Taittinger wines average about 9 grams per liter of residual sugar.

Taittinger 2005 Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs
More full in body than many Champagnes, this vintage features feisty, miniscule bubbles and perky acidity that keep its weight from feeling ponderous. It leans more toward a classic vintage than the 2006, but it’s still robust compared to cooler vintages.

Taittinger 2006 Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs
This vintage shows opulently ripe apple fruit à la apple pie on the nose. It also shows a hint of white chocolate. Nicely round on the palate, the acidity is less angular from the get-go. It’s a bundle of bubbly fun!

Taittinger 2005 Champagne Brut Rosé
This wine smells of white chocolate-covered Morello cherries. The mid-palate segues into roasted peaches, and the finish shows intriguing notes of Campari liqueur. This vintage boasts firm acidity with a pleasant nut pith nature that gives it copious texture. The finish lingers so long that it almost made me feel guilty for savoring every last second!

Taittinger 2006 Champagne Brut Rosé
Surprisingly, the 2006 turns out to be more evolved in color and aroma than the 2005 (or, at least the bottle I tasted did.) It gleams with topaz highlights and smells of lightly roasted hazelnuts. The palate delivers big flavor impact with tangerine peel and ripe persimmon. The finish is just as long and delightful as the 2005.