Touring Maison Taittinger, A Familiar Experience
Even with prestigious neighbors of the size of Ruinart and Pommery, the Maison de Champagne Taittinger stands out. It’s not only the awe-inspiring architecture or their impressive “crayeres” chalky underground cellars. It’s a je ne se quoi that I could only define as family hospitality — Taittinger is the largest family-owned Maison in Champagne.
I gladly accepted an invitation to take a private tour through Taittinger’s cellars to learn about the Maison’s history and taste their famous wines. Saying I was impressed would be an understatement. Everything, from the sincerity of the people to the century-old history embedded in every rock and every bottle, and the fabulously bubbly wine, was grander than I expected. Here’s what I learned, and why you should visit Taittinger.
The Tour, Travelling Though Time
Enthusiastic Champagne-loving Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, his lovely daughter Vitalie and his son Clovis run Taittinger. Family-owned is not a term you often hear in Champagne, as the most prominent powerhouses are now international enterprises. You can feel the warmth and hospitality the moment you set foot in the Maison, and you understand the family’s passion the second you gaze at the dim-lit underground cellars.
Built by the Gallo-Romans in the 4th century, deep 18 meters underground and only accessible by a massive spiral staircase, you’ll find the Maison’s limestone cellars. Here’s where the magic happens — where Taittinger’s bottles rest, sometimes for decades, maturing and gaining complexity.
Our private guide Christine took us on a one-hour adventure through the labyrinthine cellars feeding our imaginations with stories of the Benedictine Monks, brave World War II soldiers, and the legend of Thibaud IV. The 13th-century Comte, crusader and poet, whose figure now embellishes every label of Comtes de Champagne, Taittinger’s most exclusive cuvee.
After the eye-opening, time-traveling experience, we went back up to the surface to meet the estate’s Marketing Director. We were then treated with exclusive wine tasting at a gorgeous room with views to what were once the gardens of the Abbey of Saint-Nicaise.
With the laid back warmth of a family get-together, the expert guided us through some of Taittinger’s most representative Champagnes.
Taittinger’s Brut Reserve, a non-vintage Chardonnay-based blend of 35 sites, matured for 3 to 4 years in the cellars under our feet, is balanced and elegant. White peaches, wildflowers and hints of vanilla hit your nose, and the palate is pleasing and replenishing.
The Maison’s Prestige Rose, is equally refreshing but displays hints of tart cranberries and strawberry lipstick. They add a splash (15%) of red Pinot Noir wine to a Chardonnay base to give the Champagne it's lovely hue. This one was my favorite!
Taittinger’s Prelude cuvee is assembled with Grand Cru wines, those made from the ripest grapes in the region. Vibrancy and richness describe this exquisite 50/50 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blend. Owen loved the boldness in this one.
Comtes de Champagne
The hairs on your arms stand up as they pop open a bottle of Comtes de Champagne 2007, a ‘blanc de blancs’ sourced from the Cote des Blancs Grand Cru. This is liquid gold — Fine streams of endless bubbles carry brioche and golden apple aromas with fluttering scents of almonds and brown spices.
Sadly, it was time for us to leave, not without receiving as a gift the bottles we liked the most. Who said Champagne was uptight? Visiting Taittinger is like meeting old family friends.