Both consistent and elegant, the fact that this is Maison Taittinger’s best-selling champagne is also testament to its uniqueness.
Bottles of Maison Taittinger’s Brut Réserve champagne pop up on dining tables across the globe. It is not only the House’s best-selling champagne, but also its most recognisable because this cuvee epitomises the ‘Taittinger style’. Cellar master Alexandre Ponnavoy nods in agreement with a smile: “When people ask me how I would describe this cuvee, I always say that I view the Brut Réserve as an entry point into the world of Taittinger. When you taste it, you discover a style and a product quality – and you might then be tempted to try some of our other cuvees”. The DNA of this cuvee lies in the blend: 40% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 25% Pinot Meunier.
It is unusual for a Champagne wine to contain this amount of Chardonnay. But this high proportion shapes the Maison Taittinger style, with the House’s wines shining a spotlight both on these grapes and the minerality expressed through them. 70% of the blend consists of wines from the annual harvest, while 30% of the wines are sourced from previous harvests. This champagne then spends three years ageing in the cellars, during which time it continues to develop.
Having taken over the role of Maison Taittinger’s cellar master in 2018 after a solid track record in both French and international winemaking, Alexandre Ponnavoy was interested in how Brut Réserve had successfully stood the test of time. “I am particularly impressed by the House’s commitment to consistency,” he points out. “The style is outstanding and has been extremely consistent in its expression over time. The Brut hasn’t changed much at all – its style has been set in stone since the 1960s-1970s.” Not only is this consistency the result of hard work and precise, perfected blends, but it is also due to another particularity, which the cellar master elaborates on further: “One thing that has always been in our favour is the attributes of the Taittinger vineyard itself. Today our own vineyards comprise 288 hectares – a surface area that was established quite quickly, without moving too much afterwards. This means that we have extensive knowledge of our vines – we know how they develop and how to care for them. And I think this contributes a great deal to the consistency of the cuvee, as well as to the overall cohesion that we give it.”
The Chardonnays are sourced from the Côte des blancs, for the main part; while the Pinots Noirs come from the Montagne de Reims and the Aube regions, and the Pinot Meunier from the edge of the Marne Valley. These various crus are expressed in the wine itself and form its identity. Pinot Meunier does not feature in the Comtes de Champagne blend, for example, but add it to the Brut Reserve and it brings a sweetness, with a note of apple or raspberry that suits it down to the ground.
The Brut Réserve is an entry point into the world of Taittinger because “it is first and foremost a wine with a distinctive style, a lovely elegance,” observes Alexandre Ponnavoy. “The balance of the wine lends it this elegance. It is golden straw yellow in colour and has a lively attack on the palate, but with a long, delicate finish. This wine has notes of peach, white flowers (hawthorn, acacia, etc.) and vanilla, as well as retaining a wonderful minerality that puts it in a different league to other non-vintage champagnes.” Simply an essential Maison Taittinger wine.