Taittinger bottles. Photo: Guy Collins
The 2017 Champagne harvest produced high-quality Chardonnay grapes from the Cote des Blancs vineyards south of Epernay, compensating for the loss of yield resulting from botrytis which hit bunches as a result of warm, wet August weather, according to Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, chief executive officer of the family-owned Taittinger Champagne house.
``The quality has been very good in the Cote des Blancs, where we produce some great Chardonnay grapes'' he said during an interview in London last month. ``In the Aube also it has been excellent, and in many parts of Champagne we had excellent quality grapes. But it's too soon to say if we will be able to produce a great vintage, we will see that more in beginning of January with all the analysis we are going to make.''
He said that cutting out rotten grapes reduced yields overall at Taittinger by 30 percent compared with expectations, but ``what we saved is superb.'' Taittinger has one of the largest areas of vineyards in Champagne, totaling some 290 hectares (716 acres), while 50 percent of its output still coming from grapes bought in on long-term contracts.
Its range of Champagnes include a Brut Reserve made from 40 percent Chardonnay and 60 percent Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, a Prestige Rose and an aged vintage Brut from mainly grands crus vineyards, while at the upper end it has its vintage Comtes de Champagne range, produced only in the more exceptional years. This sells for more than $100 a bottle for recent years such as 2006 and as much as $600 or more for historic wines going back to vintages such as 1995, 1982, 1961 and 1952, according to Winesearcher.com.
Taittinger produces in the region of six million bottles a year, and exports to more than 140 countries, according to data from the company. While the U.K. remains its biggest foreign market, other major destinations for its wines include the U.S., Germany, Japan, Australia, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain and Scandinavia.
Taittinger's origins go back to 1932, when founder Pierre Taittinger teamed up with his brother-in-law to buy the Forest-Fourneaux Champagne house as well as the residence of the Counts of Champagne in Reims, according to the Taittinger website.
For most of the ensuing eight decades the business remained under family control, apart from a brief period under the ownership of Starwood Capital Group LLC in the early years of this century, when the Taittinger Champagne business was associated through a holding company with Baccarat crystal and the Hotel Crillon in Paris.
Pierre-Emmanual Taittinger succeeded in 2006 in buying back the family Champagne business with backing from Credit Agricole, and has developed its markets again over the past 11 years. In London last month he said that ``demand is still very good'' for Champagne around the world, even it if accounts for only about 10 percent of the global sparkling wine market.
Taittinger has also expanded internationally, setting up a venture at Domaine Carneros in Napa Valley in 1987. And in 2015 it moved into the English sparkling wine market, buying 69 hectares of land in Kent, southern England, on which it is planting about 40 hectares of vines.