May the Bubbles Be With You

by Alison Phillips, FWS, owner, Aligra Wine & Spirits

Alison tells Tomato readers about tasting Taittinger Champagne with brand ambassador Mikael Falkman.


Taittinger (Tat –on jay) Champagne. Just saying it evokes elegance, sophistication, celebration. The name rolls off your tongue like the bubbles in the glass. Mmmmm!

My job sucks. This week I had the task of participating in a technical Champagne tasting class at The Hardware Grill in Edmonton put on by Pacific Wine & Spirits. Mr. Mikael Falkman, the international brand ambassador for Taittinger led us through seven different styles from this famous Champagne house. It was a delicious and fascinating experience.

Taittinger, a family run business, own over 288 hectares of prime land and control 50 per cent of all the grapes grown within their own Grand Cru estates throughout 34 villages in the Champagne AOC. They are world renowned for producing a Champagne style that is light, elegant and feminine. Primarily a Chardonnay house, this grape variety gives the wine a citrus elegance, and is best for aging in the cellar. All styles of their Champagne contain nine grams of sugar.*

Taittinger has the capacity to produce 350 million (750ml) bottles annually. When asked why Champagne was so expensive, Mr. Falman replied; “for many reasons. The soils where the grapes grow are unique compared to anywhere else in the world. There is minerality from the once ancient seabeds, it is grown very far north and grapes are harvested when they have high acidity. These two characteristics impart a strong, intense flavour not found in other sparkling wines.” “As well,” he continued, “land sells for one million Euros/ hectare, a 750 ml bottle contains 1.5 kilograms of grapes at 6.50 Euros/ kilo. Add the bottles, corks and aging, it is not a cheap wine to produce. I prefer to see it as affordable luxury. There is no other wine like it.”

I would have to agree. I like to refer to Champagne as “the little black dress” of the wine world. It’s elegant, classy and goes with everything. You can drink it with anything, at any time of the day or night, It doesn’t leave crumbs in the bed and science has proven it will improve your memory. With all this going for it, how could you turn down a glass or two?

What we tasted:

We started with the Brut Reserve which is their signature cuvee done in the house style which has spent three years on the lees and imparts delicious yeasty, toasty and brioche notes; 40 per cent Chardonnay, 35 per cent Pinot Noir and 25 per cent Pinot Meunier, $60.

The Prestige Rose NV, is their second most popular selling style. Blushing a sublime shade of peachy salmon, the addition of a still Pinot Noir controls the optimum colour hue. No tannins are present in the taste and the Pinot Noir dominates beautifully. Grapes are sourced from the 34 villages and the wine rests on the lees for up to three years comprising the same percentages of grapes to the Brut, $97.

Prelude Grande Crus NV was gorgeous; 50 per cent Chardonnay and 50 per cent Pinot Noir sourced exclusively from Grand Cru vineyards. (There are no Grand Cru Pinot Meunier vines). Resting five-six years on the lees, this wine comprises 80 per cent of the 2008 vintage and 20 per cent of the 2006 and 2007. Making a consistent non-vintage champagne is tricky. Taittinger has mastered it perfectly. This wine can age in cellars very well, $97.

Brut Vintage 2005 2005 was a very hot year. Only Grand Cru and Premier Cru grapes were used in the production which has created an exceptionally delicious and age worthy Champagne. Smooth, elegant fullness on the palate with the signature toast and brioche flavours bursting in your mouth, $97.

Blanc de Blanc Comtes de Champagne Brut 2005 This is an extraordinary and special Champagne made with 100 per cent Grand Cru Chardonnay grapes sourced from only five-six villages. It is named after Count Thibault IV, a colourful character from the 1200’s. He boasts being also the King of Navarre and Count of Champagne, as well as a troubadour and crusader. This wine is the only Champagne with the word “Champagne” actually in the name. The Taittinger family were granted permission to use the old family crest on the label in 1952 and continue to produce this style 34 vintages later; 95 per cent is aged in steel barrels, 5per cent in new French oak exchanged in the third year. It spends 8 – 10 years on the lees. Bright, with wonderful acidity and bursting with flavours, it imparts a special nose and taste due to its time in oak. It garnered 93 points from Robert Parker, $237.

Nocturne Sec NV   *The only style made with a dosage of 17 grams of sugar, this wine was designed for parties, late night celebrations and having lots of fun. By no means sweet, Nocturne is a smooth style of Champagne which can be consumed easily and pairs wonderfully with seafood, sushi, and foie gras, $73.