Taittinger’s flagship ‘prestige cuvee’ Comtes de Champagne put Blanc de Blanc Champagne on the world map when they first released their 1952 vintage in 1958. Most leading Champagne houses’ prestige cuvees are Blanc de Noir, a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Many of the most important houses including Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Laurent-Perrier, and Bollinger do not make a Blanc de Blanc Champagne, while Dom Perignon, Cristal, Pol Roger’s Sir Winston Churchill and all of Bollinger’s Champagnes are dominated by Pinot Noir; Krug Vintage Brut Grande Cuvee uses all three varieties. Comtes de Champagne use only Chardonnay, a stylistic choice, which results in a beautifully aromatic and refined nose, with a rich and creamy palate, displaying characteristics of Blanc de Blanc at its very best.
The acme of Blanc de Blanc wines Salon Le Mesnil and Krug Clos du Mensil in older vintages start at £300 and £500 a bottle respectively. These are exceptional wines but the prices reflect the fact that great Chardonnay vines are rare in Champagne and most major houses would prefer to use their best Chardonnay grapes in their grand cuvees and not make a Blanc de Blanc. Yet Chardonnay excels in Champagne’s cool conditions, thriving in the limestone and chalky soils, retaining great acidity which is so important in great Champagne while enhancing minerality. Blanc de Blanc tends to be more elegant and their delicate flavour is the perfect match for caviar and an impeccable match for Sushi.
Comtes de Champagne was the vanguard of Blanc de Blancs and is the vintage Champagne to buy, cellar and drink. Their wines are produced in the cellars of the former Saint-Nicaise abbey (13th century) in Reims, and receive extravagant care and profligation, with the strict production made entirely from Chardonnay selected from only the best vines from six Grand Cru plots in the prestigious Cote des Blancs, where the chalkiest soils are found. The wines are then aged for 8-10 years in the Saint-Nicaise chalk pits (Crayeres) before being released to market. For a prestige cuvee of this prominence production is low, making only 12,500 to 25,000 cases per vintage.
In 2005 they have produced a marvellous wine with the world famous Champagne critic Richard Juhlin giving it 97 points, even better than the extraordinary 2002 which trades today at £700 a half case, although his full tasting note is not published yet.
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2005, 97 points Richard Juhlin – £405 (6×75) IB
“If forced to choose recent Comtes de Champagne for drinking today, I would gravitate towards the 2005. A beautiful wine, the 2005 has some of the openness of the 2002 mixed with a little of the energy of the 2004, but without the sheer personality of either. Instead, the 2005 impresses for its persistence, harmony and sheer drinkability. Best of all, unlike some recent prior vintages, the 2005 is not going to require any cellaring to offer its best drinking. I would cellar the 2002 and 2004, and drink the 2005 for the next decade-plus.
Taittinger’s tête de cuvée Comtes de Champagne seems to fly under the radar among the region’s elite bottles. Savvy consumers know better, though.Comtes de Champagne is one of the most profound wines readers will come across, particularly with some bottle age.” Antonio Galloni, 93+ points
With this Champagne approachable immediately and Christmas around the corner, or if you bought Royal Mail shares, why not treat yourself?!