The wine by which all Champagne houses are judged is the non-vintage. Taittinger’s Brut Réserve NV is made from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Juice from each is pressed separately in the vineyard press-houses and then taken to the Reims cellars where they are fermented for the first time in stainless steel vats to produce a still wine, which is then left in the tanks for the winter.
In the Spring the ‘assemblage’ is made and the Taittinger team blend the wines or ‘vins clairs’ to the perfect Taittinger style. With 40% Chardonnay in their signature cuvée, Taittinger uses double amount other main Champagne producers use. Approximately 20% of an older ‘reserve’ wine is also added.
The wines are then bottled with a little yeast and sugar, sealed with a ‘crown cap’ and laid to rest in the cellars. Here they undergo a secondary fermentation which produces CO2 and ultimately the all-important bubbles.
After around three years to four years maturing on its lees – more than twice that legally required in the appellation – the bottles undergo ‘remuage’, a process where, over a period of days, the bottles are slowly inverted and turned so that all the sediment slides down to the bottle neck.
The bottles are then placed neck down in a freezing brine bath where an ice plug forms capturing all the debris. When the cap is removed, the ice plug is ejected, leaving a clear, sparkling wine, to which is added a little older wine and pure cane sugar (‘dosage’) to bring it to the required level of sweetness before it is re-corked and labelled.
This method of production is used for all the Taittinger wines with variations on blends, ageing and ‘dosage’. The main exception is the Comtes de Champagne wines, which are still hand turned by the ‘remuer’ on the traditional racks or ‘pupitres’ in Taittinger’s 4th century UNESCO listed cellars in Saint Nicaise.
All the wines are made under the watchful eye of Taittinger’s winemaker Alexandre Ponnavoy.