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A major sense of occasion and a dash of James Bond makes Taittinger's Comtes de Champagne without equal.
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2005 Blanc de Blanc $200I sold my house not that long ago and my real estate agent left a message on my phone saying he had left a bottle of Champagne to celebrate. Up to that point he had been terrible at his job, and our relationship was strained, but here was his chance at the very end to salvage things. In my mind I thought anything above Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label and we could at least end on a strong note. Don’t get me wrong—Veuve is great Champagne and I’d drink it everyday if I could, but you can also buy it at a (nice) gas station in the U.S. It’s a ubiquitous wine, not a “you just made me a pile of dough for holding an open house” wine.My mind raced at the opportunities. Krug. Dom. Maybe something more esoteric like Salon. But my mind kept coming back to one wine—Taittinger Comtes de Champagne. My first job in wine was working at the Wine Cellar in Edmonton (still one of the greatest wine stores in the country, thank you), and my boss Hank Gillespie had a rare combination of palette and discernment and when someone came in wanting some bubble to celebrate something big he always steered them towards the Taittinger.Unlike Dom or Veuve or most mainstream Champagnes, the Comtes is a Blanc de Blancs, which means it’s made from 100% Chardonnay grapes. The result is one of the most elegant Champagnes in the world—I’ve heard its nose described as smelling of pastry cream. It’s unbelievably fresh and complex at the same time and the finish trails on and on and on. And if you need another reason–it’s James Bond’s Champagne. From the book Casino Royale:”With his finger on the page, Bond turned to the sommelier: ”The Taittinger ’45?”A fine wine monsieur,” said the sommelier. “But if Monsieur will permit,” he pointed with his pencil, “the Brut Blanc de Blanc 1943 of the same marque is without equal.”Bond smiled. “So be it,” he said.“That is not a well-known brand,” Bond explained , “but it is probably the finest champagne in the world.” He grinned suddenly at the touch of pretension in his remark.”In the end I pulled up to my soon-t0-be-not-my residence and there it was. A $17.99 bottle of Mumm Cuvee Napa, probably bought at a Walgreen’s. Not even Champagne. Brutal. But in the end I realized it was the perfect metaphor for this guy: sort-of-of-flashy from afar with no finish and little refinement. He wasn’t a Taittinger man. So few are.