A surefire way to add an irresistible extra sparkle to the Christmas festivities is always available, although like most good things it comes at a price. Good champagne is the key ingredient of celebration. And as somebody once said – too much of anything is bad, but too much champagne is just right.
One of the few champagne houses run by people who bear its name is Taittinger, whose business was founded in 1734. I tasted a small selection of the wares, and the retail prices quoted here are a guide, so they may vary from retailer to retailer.
Outstanding among a group of thoroughbreds was Taittinger Folies de la Marquetterie NV (12 per cent, £51, www.everywine.co.uk, Fortnum and Mason, Harrods). This would be my own number one choice to match with Christmas dinner, or just before it as a great aperitif. A blend of 55 per cent chardonnay and 45 per cent pinot noir, it’s the single cru from the family home, made in limited quantities.
Deep yellow in colour, with flashes of gold, and fine bubbles, it has an inspiring bouquet with peaches and vanilla, and a deep, full-bodied, creamy character dominated by ripe peaches. It is aged on the lees for three years. Recommended – for those who really want to push the boat out on Devember 25.
A more modestly-priced introduction to what this champagne house has to offer is Taittinger Brut NV (12 per cent, £35.99, Tesco, Majestic, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, www.everywine.co.uk). It has a light, delicate, elegant style.
On to a classic pink champagne, and Taittinger Prestige Rosé NV (12 per cent, £45, Waitrose, Majestic, Harrods, www.everywine.co.uk, and many independents). A vivacious,complex, smooth style, and a striking colour provided by the addition of about 15 per cent high-quality red wine.
Raspberries and wild strawberries, with a tiny touch of spice, are the key features, lingering in the mouth. Maybe one to remember for St Valentine’s Day, as well as Christmas.
Taittinger Vintage 2004 (12 per cent, Majestic, Fortnum and Mason, Harrods, everywine.co.uk) is aged for six years, and features an aroma of toasted brioche, plus and apricot and grapefruit tastes, as well as a hint of candied peel and a mousse that fills your mouth. Cellar ageing allows its complexity and yeasty aromas to develop.
This light golden champagne is made only after exceptionally good harvests in the vineyards.. It would be a fine enhancement for good cooking.