I love Taittinger Champagne. I love that before James Bond became a vessel for paid product placement, that it was Taittinger that 007 used to reach for. I love their commitment to the Chardonnay grape as the highest expression for bubbles. I love that you can pronounce like a Brit (tatt-in-jer) or properly (taht-en-szhay) and still sound suave.
And few people have a better claim to the success of the brand, than Claude Taittinger, who headed the company from 1960-2005 and passed away last week at the age of 94. During his tenure production increased nearly fivefold and the company expanded into America with Domaine Carneros. And then there was an ongoing patronage of the arts that resulted in the famed artists bottles from the 1980s. Here are three bottles worthy of toasting his wonderful legacy.
This may be the classiest of all Cali bubbles, in that it nails that brioche-y vibe that Golden State sparklers always seem to have trouble with. And it's got a focussed dose of everything else you're looking for—lightly warmed apple, a little lemon pith, lovely acidity. A winner.
READ MORE: A quick guide to bourbon.
This is a somewhat obscure bottling that not only is oddly readily available at the BCLDB, but actually quite competitively priced (the same bottle sells for $86USD down south). It's also odd in that it sees some oak aging, which isn't a Taittinger trademark. But the result is a revelation of toastiness and a masterclass in how to give Champagne body without losing finesse. It's quite an intense wine and well worth seeking out.
This may be the greatest 100% Chardonnay in the world (Krug's ultra-rare $1200 Clos de Menil might have an argument, I suppose). But in terms of track record for greatness, it's this distinctively bottled beauty. When we at VanMag did our best things we drank this year I chose a bottle of the 2006 that I opened on my birthday that I'm still thinking about: bubbles tight and controlled, waves of crisp apple, white flowers, maybe a hint of grilled brown sugar. Just a stunner of a bottle and a very suitable choice to toast a legend.