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Anthony Gismondi on Wine
Thursday, December 12 2019

Champagne Taittinger

By: Anthony Gismondi
Where Emotion meets Precision.

Before there was Taittinger, there was Forest-Fourneaux, and before that, a man named Jacques Fourneaux.

In 1734, Fourneaux collaborated with local Benedictine monks to learn how to produce still and sparkling wines. It was Jacques’ great-grandson who was instrumental in forming a partnership with Antoine Forest and invigorating the business boosted by exports to Britain and the United States.

The first Taittinger, Pierre, arrived in Champagne during World War I as an injured officer, convalescing in the Château de la Marquetterie, a French command post just outside Épernay. Smitten by the building and the landscape, he vowed to return to buy it should he ever have the means. When the Great Depression of the 1930s swept through Europe, the fortunes of Forest-Fourneaux diminished considerably, and Pierre, from a family of wine merchants, stepped in and relaunched the business under the Taittinger name.

Two decades later, in the 1950s, Taittinger joined the Syndicat des Grandes Marques. Back then, Taittinger was selling a renowned single vineyard wine labelled Folies de la Marquetterie, and rest, as they say, is history.

Taittinger's headquarters is in Reims, a half-hour from the chateau, and in a massive 13th-century mansion on the Rue de Tambour. It is the former home of Theobald IV,  a man who reigned over Champagne from 1222. Theobald was rumoured to have brought the chardonnay grape to the region from Cyprus, although UC Davis researchers have long since proven this to be false. True or not, Taittinger’s best wine is named Comtes de Champagne in Theobald’s honour, and the wine is 100 percent chardonnay.

The company thrived under Francois Taittinger, and his younger brother Claude before financial woes beset it at the turn of the century. That led to a controversial sale in July 2005 to the American-owned Starwood Hotel Group, but the deal was shortlived. Thanks to Claude’s nephew Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, industry friends and Credit Agricole the family regained control of the business on May 31, 2006, less than a year later.

All of which brings us to the present.

When we met with Vitalie Taittinger in Reims, it was days before she would be confirmed as Taittinger's new president, taking over for her father, Pierre-Emmanuel. Brother Clovis was announced as the new General Manager and the Director of Marketing and Sales worldwide, ensuring that Taittinger remains a family business for another generation.

With 288 hectares of vines, the Taittinger family is amongst the largest vineyard owners in Champagne. The vineyard is planted to 37% chardonnay, 48% pinot noir, and 15% pinot meunier distributed equally across 37 highly-rated vineyards, and on par with the best in the region. As early as 1945, François Taittinger relied on chardonnay to launch a long line of elegant sparkling wines full of finesse and precision that would come to define Taittinger’s signature house style.

Follow us as we tour the property and the cellars of Taittinger and record the first interview of President Vitalie Taittinger as she highlights the past, the present, and the future at Champagne Taittinger, where more than anything, the wines are about emotion.

 Riddling bottles at Champagne Taittinger

The Comtes de Champagne bottles are still hand riddled at Taittinger. 

Frozen lees

Frozen lees in the unique neck of the Comtes bottle. 

A bottle of Taittinger's champagne is disgorged in its cellars in Reims.

The riddler disgorges the lees from a bottle of Comtes. 

Learn more about Champagne Taittinger.

Written By: ag
Anthony Gismondi
Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi is a Canadian wine journalist and one of North America's most influential voices in wine. For 30 years he has been the wine columnist for The Vancouver Sun. His twice-weekly column is distributed across Canada through Postmedia Network to 10 million readers. Anthony co-hosts the 20-year-strong BC Food & Wine Radio Show, which is broadcast in seven markets in B.C. and available online everywhere on iHeartRadio.ca. He launched Gismondionwine.com in 1997, attracting one million users a month from 114 countries. It continues to be a valuable resource of full tasting notes and intelligent wine stories and videos for the trade and consumers.