Geoffrey Dean gets close and personal with new vintages from Taittinger's Comtes de Champagne

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It was fitting that, with Global Champagne Day on Sunday so close, Taittinger
should give their first ever public airing of four recent vintages of
their premier cuvee, Comtes de Champagne, in London on Friday.

 

The 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 Comtes - all disgorged last December - were
unveiled by Damien le Sueur, the company's deputy general manager, and
Dominique Garreta, their marketing director, at the Bettane &
Desseauve tasting at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea.

 

The Comtes, as it is affectionately known, is unusual in that it is
one of a handful of top cuvees that are 100% Chardonnay. It is not
made every year - in 2003 and 2009 for example. The wine is a blend of
fruit from the five Grands Crus villages in the Cotes des Blancs -
about two thirds comes from Avize and Mesnil in equal quantities,
while the remaining third is split between Oger, Chouilly and Cramant.

 

 

It was clear that both 2004 and 2005 had undergone the first part of
their evolution in bottle. So much so, that 2004 will be released
soon, in early 2013 according to Le Sueur. The 2005 will not, however,
be on the market for another couple of years. ‘Tension' - that
sought-after but ill-defined quality in champagne of taut acidity,
finesse and delicacy - was apparent in the 2004, but not in the 2005,
which was richer, wider and more powerful.

 

"There is a lot of tension in the 2004," Le Sueur purred. "It was a
very hot year which led to an early harvest. The yield was high but
there was not a problem with maturation. I really appreciate this
vintage. 2002 was more expressive but 2004 is delicate with a lot of
finesse."

 

Michel Bettane, 60, the pre-eminent French taster, commented
that he picked up oysters and iodine in the 2004 and 2007, but not in
the other two, which were fruit-driven.

 

Both 2006 and 2007 were clearly very young indeed, with their
evolution lying ahead of them. They will not be released for another
four or five years. There was a wonderful persistence in the 2007,
whose TA (total acidity) was much higher at 8.3g/l than the other
three, whose range was 7-7.3. The 2007 was also half a degree lower in
alcohol at 9.5% than the others, pointing to the fact it was a cooler
growing season.

 

Le Sueur was loathe to pick out a favourite, although he gave a clue
when he revealed a 1971 Comtes had been opened at the winery recently.
"It was very fresh in the mouth," he said. "It was clear to me that
the best Comtes are the ones that have the capacity to age."
Undoubtedly, the 2007, with its extra acidity, will lead a long life.
A vintage to watch, no doubt, in the years to come.

 

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