LIFE’S LUXURIES

If you are in the mood to ‘splash out’ you will be de­lighted, says JOHN BELSHAM.

Cuisine - - CHAMPAGNE UNDER $100 -

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.

TAST­ING PANEL

The sparkling wine tast­ing panel also tasted the Cham­pagnes $100 & over.

JUDG­ING PRO­TO­COL

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)

FAM­ILY HIS­TORY

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

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