Taittinger is perfect for a festive meal.
Taittinger is perfect for a festive meal.

N ew Year’s Eve is a special night when we turn away from an old year and look forward to what the new one brings us. It often is a night of revelry, with raucous parties and too much drinking.

I’ve had my share of those over the years, but I have now come to think of the night as amateur night, when people who can’t hold their alcohol drink too much. So we often celebrate quietly, with a small group of friends or alone.

Teri and I brought in the new year by ourselves this year, but we did it in style, breaking out the “good stuff” to go with a fine dinner. We weren’t disappointed.

Adding a raspberry is a nice touch.
Adding a raspberry is a nice touch.

We pulled the Taittinger (teh-tin-ZHAY) from our cellar and started sipping as we cooked. It was a fine way to start the evening. The beautiful salmon-peach color of the Champagne practically forces you into a festive mood.

While I don’t often like the aroma of sparkling wine, this one has a refreshing aroma of crushed raspberries and cherries. The glass stays full of lively bubbles and persistent foam.

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The tastes are of red fruit, especially raspberries, and offer a sparkling freshness on the tongue. It is a delicate balance of red fruit and crisp acidity, velvety and lively. We added a raspberry to each glass for a little fun.

We loved it while nibbling on Fol Epi cheese and cooking and loved it with the fried shrimp we made. We saved a couple of glasses for toasting at midnight, and it was still full of dancing bubbles. This really is a special wine to enliven all occasions.

I had heard of Taittinger, but never drank much of it until we tried it on a vacation trip to France in 2012. One of the best stops on that trip was a visit to the Champagne cellars of Taittinger in Reims.

The cellars began as chalk pits in the 4th Century and later were part of an abbey. More than 50 feet below the surface, these pits are now where Taittinger stores its best Champagne as it ages to perfection.

While the cellar tour was picturesque, the best part was tasting the Champagne afterwards. We sipped several Champagnes, including, I think, some of this rose Champagne.

Some of the large format bottles stored in the chalk caves.
Some of the large format bottles stored in the chalk caves.

The winery wouldn’t ship to the United States, but we were able to find it when we got back home, and now we keep several bottles on hand for special occasions.

The wine is 50% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Meunier, grown mostly in Montagne de Reims and Les Riceys. Most of the grapes are pressed in vineyard press houses before undergoing cool fermentation at the winery. About 85% of the wine is vinefied as white wine with the rest as red wine. A small amount of still red Pinot Noir is added to give it more color and vibrancy on the palate.

Riddling racks used to pull sediment to neck of bottle.
Riddling racks used to pull sediment to neck of bottle.

The final blend comes from at least 15 different crus of the Champagne region as well as some young reserve wines. After second fermentation in the bottle, the wine spends three years on the lees in the bottle. This helps develop complexity and bouquet.

We continued the New Year festivities the next day with King Crab legs paired with Treana White from Hope Family Wines, one of my favorite white wines. I’d like to say we won’t need to eat or drink for a week, but I know we’ll be on the lookout for more good wine and food Thursday. Looking for the right pairing is a grand adventure.

From: Champagne

Some of the millions of bottles stored at Taittinger.
Some of the millions of bottles stored at Taittinger.
Winery: Founded in 1734 by Jacques Fourneaux the Taittinger Champagne house is based in Reims. Fourneaux worked with the Benedictine Abbeys, which owned the best vineyards in the region.

The Taittingers were wine merchants who moved to Paris in 1870. Pierre Taittinger was a young calvary officer who suffered a heart attack in World War I and was recovering at the Chateau de la Marquetterie when he made a promise to himself to purchase the property if it every became available.

He bought the Forest Fourneaux Champagne firm in 1930, which was the third oldest Champagne house in existence at the time. Two years later he bought the Chateau de la Marquetterie and its surrounding vineyards as well as another residence in downtown Reims.

Pierre Taittinger changed the style of Champagne from the sweet, heavy Champagnes in favor of natural, elegant wines that reflected where they were grown. The family set a standard for lightness and delicacy. They also planted more Chardonnay vineyards.

More bottles stored in chalk caves.
More bottles stored in chalk caves.

Champagne wines and its large formats. These cellars began as chalk pits in the 4th century, then became the cellars of the Abbey of Saint-Nicaise, which was built above them in the 13th century. The abbey was destroyed during the French Revolution, and today exists only through its Gothic cellars, 17 meters underground.

The Taittingers sold the business to the U.S. hotel group Starwood in 2005. Less than a year later Pierre-Emmanuel Tiattinger and the Northeast Regional Bank of the Credit Agricole bought it back. Pierre-Emmanuel, grandson of the founder, runs the business today.

The family owns 752 acres of vines in 34 different vineyards, one of the largest holdings in Champagne. It has 12 to 13 million bottles of Champagne in its cellars. This is one of the last great Champagne houses to remain independent and is still operated by the family named on the label.

Cost: $63
Year: NV

Champagne, shrimp, hush puppies. Happy New Year!
Champagne, shrimp, hush puppies. Happy New Year!
Goes with: Teri and I had this beautiful Champagne with fried shrimp and hush puppies, and salads. It was a wonderful combination, with the lightly breaded shrimp and cocktail sauce making a nice counter-point to the smooth sparkles. It really was a festive dinner, a fitting way to end the year.

The Taittinger makes a tasty aperitif, but also will go with many main dishes, such as lamb chops, a nice warm pasta or pork tenderloin. I would drink the Taittinger Brut with fish, and save the Rose for the sweeter or more pungent dishes.

It also would be great with dessert, such as fruit tarts, fruit salad or a red fruit crumble.

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