Decanter's tasting director Christelle Guibert attended a rare vertical tasting of Taittinger's Comtes de Champagne, from a private collection...
For most of us, Champagne evokes celebrations, glamour and special occasions. Rarely does it bring to mind the windswept Swedish town of Malmö.
Scroll down for Christelle’s tasting notes and scores
But here we are gathered, 17 lucky guests, for an extraordinary vertical tasting of Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne. This is thanks to our host Marina Olsson, a member of at the Tasting Group Gomseglet Wine & Champagne Connoisseurs, and her extensive private cellar.
Now running to more than 800 different Champagnes, it must rank as one of the largest collections in the world.
‘It made me realise that we drink our Champagne far too young’
Vitalie Taittinger was also present, and joined the family business after studying art. Champagne may be part of her day to day life, but this vertical was an avant-premiere.
A tasting of 27 vintages of Comtes de Champagne is unheard of. Many of the bottles came from Marina’s private cellar, and some were sourced for the event from importers in Sweden and London.
For the first time, one bottle (the 1993) was bought at auction, from a restaurant in Sweden. From the 27 bottles, not one was oxidised or in poor condition.
The Champagnes were served blind in flights of four to six wines. Part of the fun was to guess the vintages, and it made the tasting challenging, often rewarding, but most importantly a great educational experience.
To add a twist to this event, a ringer was also hidden among the others. As we finished the day with Taittinger 1970 from Marina’s private cellar, it made me realise that we often drink our Champagne far too young. Very few white wines in the world will be able to age as gracefully as the ones we tasted.
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Christelle’s Comtes de Champagne tasting notes
Taittinger is one of the few houses that are still family-owned, but the journey was not straightforward. The original house was founded in 1734, but Vitalie’s great-grandfather, Pierre Taittinger, acquired the house in 1931.
Following his retirement, her grand-father, François Taittinger, took over. His brothers Jean and Claude joined the company in 1946 and 1949 respectively, and after François’ tragic death Claude took charge, running the company from 1960 until 2005, when it was sold to the Starwood group.
During that year, Vitalie’s father, Pierre-Emmanuel, who was working at Taittinger, had fought hard to purchase the Champagne house. A year later, Taittinger was back in family hands, thanks to the support of the growers and Union Champagne.
The same year, Vitalie and brother Covis joined their father – she is the marketing and communications director, while he is the export director.
Comtes de Champagne
Made entirely from Chardonnay, Comtes de Champagne was introduced in 1952, and up to today Taittinger has released 36 vintages of this deluxe cuvée, with the 37th, the 2007, to be released next year.
The grapes are sourced from the grand cru villages of the Côtes des Blancs, mostly from Avize, Mesnil and Oger, but also some grapes from Chouilly and Cramant.
The vintages from the 50s were made in barrels, but in the 60s and 70s these were replaced with stainless steel. Chef de caves Loïc Dupont re-introduced oak barrels in 1988.
The wine goes through full malolactic fermentation and spends between five to 10 years on lees, depending on the vintage. Today, thanks to the riper grapes being produced, the dosage is around 9g/l, compared to 15 to 16g/l in the 1970s.
With a total production of around 150,000 to 300,000 bottles, Comtes de Champagne remains one of the more exclusive deluxe cuvées, especially compared to Dom Perignon, which is believed to have a production of around six million bottles.