N.V. Taittinger Brut La Francaise

Year: N.V.
Appellation: Champagne
Country: France
Wine Spectator: 89
Wine Advocate: 90
Sparkling Wine
Alcohol by Volume: 12.3%
Price :
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"A bright Champagne in an aperitif style, with the lively mousse carrying an appealing, easy-drinking mix of poached white cherry, pastry cream and candied ginger notes. Drink now. 47,000 cases imported. -AN" (WS)

"Aromas of green apple, golden orchard fruit, fresh pastry, marzipan and warm bread introduce the latest rendition of Taittinger's NV Brut La Française, a cuvée that contains some 30% reserve wines and sees three years sur lattes. On the palate, the wine is medium to full-bodied, fleshy but incisive, with a generous core of fruit, tangy acids and a delicately chalky finish. Disgorgement dates aren't indicated on the label, but it's generally a very consistent bottling.

One of Champagne's largest houses, Taittinger is also among the region's largest landholders, with their 288 hectares of vineyards supplying some 40% of their requirements. Since 2006—once again under family control—Taittinger has been going from strength to strength. Vinification is mainly in stainless steel, though around 30% of the maison's small Folies de la Marquetterie cuvée ferments in foudre, and since 1988, a small proportion—amounting to around 5%—of the vins clairs for Comtes de Champagne spend a few months in wood. The Taittinger style is pure and expressive, emphasizing charming fruit but gaining in tension and taking on a gently reductive edge as one ascends the house hierarchy to the flagship Comtes de Champagne bottlings. Comtes is one of the most reliably age-worthy wines in Champagne, yet it continues to represent terrific value when compared to—frequently inferior—tête de cuvée bottlings from other Grandes Marques. And the eagerly anticipated 2008 vintage, previewed during this tasting with chef des caves Alexandre Ponnavoy, will be worthy of enthusiastic pursuit when it is released sometime within the next 12-18 months. Two others cuvées that fly under the radar are the Folies de la Marquetterie—from parcels Taittinger is farming in pursuit of riper, more concentrated fruit—and the Prélude Grands Crus, a seriously age-worthy Champagne that sometimes gets somewhat lost in the Taittinger range. I'll be reporting in more depth on this important house in the near future, but for now, all these releases come recommended." (WA)

Winery Notes:
Taittinger Brut La Française is produced from select Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes grown in the finest microclimates of the viticultural area of Champagne. Taittinger's extensive vineyard holdings of 752 acres in these areas, particularly in those where Chardonnay is planted, allow it to rely primarily on its own grapes for the vinification of its portfolio of champagnes.

Following harvest, the grapes are pressed immediately in press houses located among the vineyards, yielding a first pressing, referred to as the "cuvée," which is followed by two more pressings, referred to as the first and second "tailles," which are not used in the blend. In all, no more than 100 litres (approximately 26 gallons) of juice per 160 kilograms (approximately 350 pounds) of fruit may be extracted from the combined three pressings. The juice is transported to the vinification facility, and a cool fermentation of the must takes place under temperature controlled conditions, after which the wine rests until the end of the winter. Blending occurs after the primary fermentation, and thereafter the final cuvée undergoes the secondary fermentation in the bottle at 45 to 50 F in Taittinger's cool cellars, during which the wine acquires complexity and the fine, pinpoint bubbles characteristic of its sparkle. Before remuage, it is aged three to four years, as opposed to the required minimum of 15 month, to develop body and bouquet.

Taittinger Brut La Française is blended to maintain a delicate and elegant style from an extensive range of wines from diverse crus of Champagne. The foundation and consistency of the distinctive Taittinger style relies greatly on the proportion of each grape variety in the blend: Pinot Noir lends the finished blend body, vinosity, structure and power as well as the elegant red berry aromas typical of the variety; Pinot Meunier provides a supple, round fruitiness to the wine; Chardonnay contributes elegance, finesse, crispness and delicacy to the blend, as well as a degree of structure and longevity. Taittinger's reliance on Chardonnay for this cuvée, which approximates 40 percent of the finished wine, or over twice the percentage of Chardonnay used in the standard cuvées of most champagne houses, is the source of the exceptional refinement of the Taittinger style. A cellar reserve of approximately 5,000,000 bottles of wines from prior vintages allows the house to consistently achieve this style and quality. The reserve varies slightly from year to year as a function of the abundance of the harvest and global sales.

The subtle, pale gold color of Taittinger Brut La Française is punctuated by extremely fine, persistent bubbles rising to the surface in fragile strands. The fragrant berry and white fruit aromas, underscored by toasty, yeasty notes are confirmed on the ample, elegant palate which is strongly marked by refined Chardonnay fruit flavors. A fresh, balanced acidity sustains the whole, and carries into a long, crisp toasty finish of great delicacy.