If you are in the mood to ‘splash out’ you will be delighted, says JOHN BELSHAM.
THE TERM ‘tête de cuvée’ can be used to define any house’s top blend, however it is mostly reserved for the very finest blends of Champagne. These wines are produced from the best fruit from the best sites. They are aged in the cellars for many years or even decades prior to disgorging and release. The wines may be defined by a certain vineyard or unique house character. They may also be from a declared vintage. Vintage declarations are the ultimate decision of each house but are only released from exceptional years and with careful consideration. These wines are priced to reflect the superior level of time, effort, pedigree and skill afforded to these very special blends.
Money does not always buy good taste however it can buy a great tasting. All of the Champagnes were judged and scored without knowledge of price. However, once the submissions were tabulated by price, after the tasting, it was of no surprise that many of the wines that achieved our greatest accolades have a price tag to match. If you are in the mood to ‘splash out’ you will be delighted with the luxurious offerings listed.
The sparkling wine tasting panel also tasted the Champagnes $100 & over.
All wines were evaluated blind and awarded stars without knowledge of their price. Following this, the stewards sorted the wines into those under $100 and those priced $100 and over. The judges then ranked these wines in the separate groups without changing any of the original awards. The lists are presented in this way for your convenience.
TOP CHAMPAGNE $100 & OVER Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2006 -2 $399 ★★★★★
STYLISTICALLY THE Taittinger house style is refined and elegant (think Grace Kelly). They maintain a high percentage of chardonnay in all of their cuvées and Comtes de Champagne is a pure expression of the grape. This is a generous, yet supple expression of chardonnay balanced with pitch-perfect tension and acidity. The balance of concentration and fruit ripeness is exquisite with exemplary length, mousse and texture that gracefully dances across the palate. Aromas of flint and soft spices are followed by a textural cacophony of ripe lemon, toasty brioche and a savoury finish. The 2006 vintage marks the 26th release of this wine since 1952. (F)
Although their deep, chalk cellars date to the eighteenth century, the Taittinger family were Parisian wine merchants until Pierre Taittinger purchased the winery in 1932 from the ForestFourneaux family. In 1934 he purchased the Château de la Marquetterie and its 16 hectares of cru vineyards. Today Taittinger is led by the effervescent Pierre-emmanuel Taittinger alongside his daughter Vitalie and son Clovis who are actively involved in daily operations.
Since taking over the reins in 2006, Pierre-emmanuel has successfully grown Taittinger to become the sixth largest Champagne-producing house, while keeping quality at its fundamental core. Champagne is serious business, however Pierre-emmanuel, with his ‘joie de vivre’, would be the first to say, “Relax and enjoy the moment.”
2 /Taittinger Brut Vintage 2012 ★★★★★ -2 $134
Aged for a minimum of three years on lees, the 2012 evokes a tight, crisp style with lovely length and poise. With a touch of matchstick on the nose, the wine grows beautifully in the mouth as a prelude of spiced fruits and white limestone lead to a layer of lemon, lime and white flowers. (F)
3 / Laurent Perrier Brut Millésime 2006 ★★★★★ -2 $130
With a fabulous mousse weight and dimension this is a powerful wine counterbalanced by a textural harmony of lovely soft and integrated chardonnay flavours. It is mouth filling with beautiful poise and a long line to the finish. A wonderful example of generous texture that illustrates how a premium Champagne can accompany great food. (E)
4 / Billecart-salmon Brut Rosé NV★★★★★ -2 $142.50
A pretty, pale-salmon hue catches the eye while aromas of rose, lemon blossom and cherries lure you to the glass. The wine has a delightful, fresh palate of toasty biscuit and concentrated red fruits that carries the acidity and texture with grace and ease. (A)
5 / Charles Heidsieck Rosé Réserve NV ★★★★★ -2 $100
Finely structured with a crisp herbal note, this pretty, salmon-coloured rose begins with a finely beaded mousse and continues with delicate scented florals, wild strawberry and limestone. The wine is underscored by laser-focused acidity for an elegant finish. (B)
6 / Taittinger Prélude Grands Crus Brut NV ★★★★★ -2 $124
A refreshing, crisp style that is tight yet precise and elegant in its delivery. Zesty lemon, lime and white flower flavours have a touch of limestone salinity that begs for sunshine and a plate of oysters. (F)
7 / Dom Pérignon Vintage 2009 ★★★★★ -2 $265
Like a flower in bloom, the wine has restrained aromas on a beautifully balanced palate that continues to unfold in the glass. Savoury fennel notes contrasted with red fruit and spice are delivered in a length that is quite phenomenal and concentrated. (C)
8 /Veuve Clicquot Vintage 2008 ★★★★★ -2 $119
Subtle aromas of white flowers and soft fruits give way to a wine whose freshness is wonderfully memorable. Flavours of green-tinted lemon, white oak vanilla and dried fruits are held in wonderful tension. Great line and length gives a polished elegance. (C)
These wines are produced from the best fruit from the best sites. They are aged in the cellars for many years or even decades prior to disgorging and release. JOHN BELSHAM
9 / Taittinger Les Folies de la Marquetterie Brut NV ★★★★ -2 $124
Lovely fine lines of fruit are balanced with a crisp acidity that delivers a mouthful of delicious playfulness. Flavours of sun-ripened lemon, warm baked bread and delicate white flowers give lovely weight to the wine that remains lively and youthful. (F)
10 / Bollinger Rosé NV ★★★★ -2 $148
Pink, pretty and fresh. Soft wild strawberry aromas sit on a fresh, crisp palate of toasty brioche, raspberries and citrus. It’s reminiscent of a perfect patisserie, beautifully defined with exquisite presentation and flavours that arouses all of the senses. (D)
Laurent Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut NV ★★★★ -2 $150
A red-salmon hue with lively florals and a hint of toast. A well-defined palate with a touch of bitter lemon that adds punctuation to cherry fruits, red berries and vanilla. The palate is creamy yet delicate. (E)
Ayala Rosé Majeur Brut NV ★★★★ -2 (D) $109.82
Laurent Perrier La Cuvée Brut NV ★★★★ -2 (E) $109.95
Moët & Chandon vineyard and the Abbey of Hautvillers, Epernay