Taittinger

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Taittinger, based in Reims, makes a range of elegant and classic champagnes, from the Brut Reserve to their prestige cuvee Comtes de Champagne. The family run company strives for quality at every level. Their 289 hectares of prime vineyards, including many Grand Cru parcels, provides them with one of the highest levels of estate-grown grapes of the major Champagne houses. A high proportion of Chardonnay used across the range is the basis for the house style of delicacy and finesse.

9 Place Saint-Nicaise, Reims. +33 3 26 85 45 35

The Wines

The Taittinger style is directly attributable to the predominance of Chardonnay in the wines. The delicate character and finesse that is associated with this grape is evident throughout the range. 

Taittinger Brut Reserve

50% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 10% Meunier. Called ‘La Francaise’ in the United States and Reserve in the rest of the world, the wine is produced with grapes from over 35 villages with approximately 20% reserve wines. It ages for a minimum of three years and has a dosage of 8g/L.

Taittinger Prestige Rose

30% Chardonnay, 70% Pinot Noir & Meunier. 15% of the Pinot Noir comes in the form of still red wine from top vineyards in the Montagne de Reims. 

Taittinger Prelude Grands Crus

50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir. This wine was first created as a special production of magnums from the ’96 vintage, released to celebrate the millennium. It was so popular, that they decided to add it permanently to the range. The grapes are sourced from the Grand Cru villages of Avize, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Mailly and Ambonnay and only the first pressing is used. The wine Prelude may or may not be a vintage, depending on the quality of the fruit from each year.

Taittinger Les Folies de la Marquetterie

55% Pinot Noir, 45% Chardonnay. The grapes come from the vineyards at the Chateau de la Marquetterie and each plot is vinified separately, and only the first pressing is used. A portion goes into oak barrels. The wine is aged for five years prior to release. 

Taittinger Nocturne Sec

60% Pinot Noir and Meunier, 40% Chardonnay. This wine is a blend of about 30 villages and several vintages. The wine is aged for four years before release. The dosage is 17.5g/L. 

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne

100% Chardonnay. This Blanc de Blancs is the pinnacle of the Taittinger range. First produced in 1952, the Chardonnay grapes come solely from the Grand Cru villages of Avize, Le Mesnil, Oger, Chouilly and Cramant. Claude Taittinger used a small percentage of oak-aged wine and Loic Dupont continues that tradition using only 5% in the blend for the subtle vanilla and toasty notes it provides. A vintage wine, it is only made in exceptional years and is aged in the chalk cellars for 10 years before release.

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rose

70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay from 100% Grand Cru villages. 15% of the blend is from still red wine from the Grand Cru village of Bouzy. Only the first pressing is used and the wine spends an extended period maturing before release. 

Taittinger Millesime

50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir from Grand Cru villages.  Only made in the best vintages, the wine is aged for 5 years before release. 

The Taittinger Collection

Since 1983 the house has been producing a series of vintage wines decorated with artist-designed, whole-bottle coverings. The wine is the same cuvee as the Brut Millesime.

History of the House

The story of Taittinger begins long before anyone from that family was actually involved. It starts, with Jacques Fourneaux, who in 1734 established a house, making at first, mostly still whites and reds, before transitioning to sparkling wine. At the time, he was only the third person to have founded such a business in Champagne. In 1820 Jacques’ family partnered with Antoine Forest and the house became known as Forest & Fourneaux. It was highly successful and profitable. 

Almost 100 years later, in 1915, a young Pierre Taittinger joined the French cavalry of Marshal Joffre at the Chateau de la Marquetterie, a beautiful mansion that captured Pierre’s imagination. Pierre was determined to buy this extraordinary building as his home, and in 1932 he partnered with his brother-in-law, Paul Eveque, to realise his dream. It was in the same year that the new partners also took advantage of the dismal economy created by the Great Depression. They purchased a huge expanse of vineyards, as well as the house of Forest & Fourneaux, whose name they changed to Ets Taittinger Mailly & Cie. 

One year after acquiring the house, they relocated to Reims, and in 1942 moved into their current location on Place Saint-Nicaise. It stands over the ruins of the Saint-Nicaise Abbey, and the impressive chalk cellars underneath the structure date back to the Gallo-Roman era of the 4th century. 

By the 1940s Pierre’s son Francois had joined the family business after the sad death of his brother Michel, who was killed in the line of duty on his 20th birthday. Francois was very young and still in school, but he already possessed a vision of the opportunities for Taittinger after the war, both nationally and internationally. 

In 1946 Francois was joined in the business by his brother Jean, who was a savvy businessman and politician. He increased their vineyard holdings with land purchases in select and prestigious areas. Jean soon went on to become mayor of Reims, and later, in 1972, Minister of Justice. 

The last of Pierre’s four sons to become part of the family enterprise was Claude, who came on board in 1949. By now the house of Taittinger was well positioned to become a heavy-hitter in Champagne. Claude was an innate marketer and understood that Champagne could be sold as something aspirational and celebratory. He often claimed to be a “seller of happiness”. Claude started an ambitious campaign to introduce Taittinger to global markets and was soon off to a solid start in the US when he partnered with Rudy Kopf and his company, Kobrand, in 1951.

Claude took over the company in 1960, after the tragic accidental death of his brother Francois. He was one of the first Champenois to recognize the potential of the Aube as a wine region and purchased vineyards there, as well as in the best sections of the Montagne de Reims and Cotes des Blancs. 

Later, Claude continued to build on the family’s empire with the purchase of the Concorde hotel chain, the sparkling wine brand Bouvet-Ladubay, and the Napa Valley producer, Domaine Carneros.

The year 2005 brought changes and turmoil to Taittinger. Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, son of Jean and nephew of Claude, took the helm just before the company was sold. At the time, the family each had shares in a holding company called the Societe du Louvre, which consisted of the Champagne house and their other luxury businesses. This company was bought by Starwood Capital and the Taittinger family was no longer in control of their famous Champagne brand.

However, fortunately for the Taittingers, Starwood were less interested in Champagne than they were in the group’s hotels and other assets. One year later, in 2006, Pierre-Emmanuel partnered with the French bank Credit Agricole to buy back the company, and in 2007 bought 37% of the Credit Agricole shares. 

Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger is still running the business, and has been joined by his son and daughter, Clovis and Vitalie. With diverse interests and experience, Clovis and Vitalie bring a new, youthful perspective to their various aspects of the company.

The house continues to take opportunities to build for the future.  In 2015, Taittinger teamed up with a group of British investors to buy 69 hectares of farmland in Kent.  It plans to become first French champagne house to produce an English sparkling wine, and expects the venture to produce its first fruit for winemaking around 2020.

Vineyards and Winemaking

The chef de cave at Taittinger is Loic Dupont. He has been part of the Taittinger family for 26 years and the cellar master since 2000. The production, care and blending of these wines is his sole responsibility. 

While Dupont takes care of the grapes once they arrive in the cellar, the 289 hectares of Taittinger vineyards are in the capable hands of vineyard manager, Vincent Collard. The vineyards are spread across 34 villages, including: Ambonnay, Mailly, Chouilly, Avize, Mesnil-sur-Oger, Cramant and a 45-hectare contiguous parcel in the Aube. For the house, their most prized vineyard is the one located at the Chateau de la Marquetterie, ‘Les Folies’, which dates back to the 14th century when it was procured by the Abbey of St-Pierre aux Monts. Since 2002 these 8 hectares have been bottled in a single-vineyard wine, the ‘Les Folies de la Marquetterie’. 

The estate-owned vineyards account for approximately 50% of the house’s annual requirements, which ranks Taittinger one of the top two major Champagne houses in terms of self-supply. The additional grapes are sourced from conscientiously chosen growers, many of whom have been working with Taittinger for up to four generations. 

As responsible growers and producers, Taittinger is associated with the “authorisation prefectorale”, a government controlled organization that requires its members to adhere to certain environmental practices. They are also taking steps to reduce their ecological impacts relating to energy usage, water and waste. 

There are several press houses in various locations throughout their vineyards where the grapes are pressed at the time of picking. The must is then moved to the cellars in Reims, where Dupont ferments the juice in stainless steel tanks. All the wines age on the lees for at least 3-4 years, well in excess of the legal ageing requirements.