We tasted: vertical of 18 Comtes de Champagne

The springtime of 2022 was the moment when finally the pandemic slowed down and we were able to travel again and meet people that enjoy champagne as much as we do. The first prestige champagne tasting we’ve attended was organized in the beautiful town of Montreux on the lakeshore  of Léman or Lac de Genève in Switzerland.

beautiful rainbow over Montreux, captured from our hotel room

Located in the north part of Montreux, the luxurious Fairmont hotel (Le Montreux Palace) was chosen to host this exquisite champagne event. Built in 1906, the hotel is a member of the Swiss Deluxe Hotels and Historic Hotels Worldwide. Since its opening, the hotel has welcomed celebrities like the exiled Richard Strauss who composed here his Four Last Songs, then the famous novelist Vladimir Nabokov lived in the hotel for the last seventeen years of his life, and Freddie Mercury also spent his last moments at the Palace. As an interesting fact, Le Montreux Palace hosted the Bilderberg Group meeting in 2019. Our champagne tasting took place at MP’s Bar & Grill venue.

the setup table waiting for the champagne lovers
beautiful 18 vintages of Comtes de Champagne waiting for the event to begin

The champagne “vertical” was paired with a fabulous 6-course tasting menu. Each flight associated 2 to 4 vintages of Comtes de Champagne.

some of the best dishes served
some of the best dishes served
one of the desserts

Now that we’ve briefly described the scene let’s focus on the champagne. Comtes de Champagne is the prestige line of Taittinger house (Reims) that we had already visited. We also had the chance to previously taste Comtes de Champagne 1994, but never the possibility to compare so many great vintages at the same time.

This “vertical” was built on 18 vintages, including the historical 1952, the first edition ever of Comtes de Champagne. The event was made possible thanks to Dustin (@swiss_champagne_guy), champagne lover and collector, that took care and organized everything brilliantly. His enthusiasm made this event possible, where champagne lovers from many corners of the world came together for tasting this amazing collection of Comtes.

Dustin, the organizer
the group of champagne lovers
during the lunch tasting

Although there were 18 cuvées to taste, we had some general notes for each one, from our individual perspective:

2011 – open and fresh, citric but refined, hints of tangerine, some brioche and vanilla
2008 – fabulous vintage with excellent balance between minerality and acidity
2007 – distinctive balance, fresh and crisp
2006 – strong, structured but flexible in time, long spicy finish
2005 – mature, slightly masculine, earthy and yeasty, hints of leather and tobacco
2004 – herbal and floral, great finesse, the opposite of 2005
2002 – great mousse, delicate but spicy, hints of orange peel, dried pineapple, ginger, apricot pie
2000 – full body, developed but not old, mature notes of butterscotch and liquorice
1999 – very complex, full bodied, notes of dried plums, aftertaste a bit salty
1998 – excellent evolution, round, with character, smoked notes, pastry, blackberries
1996 – a great vintage by definition, elegant, distinctive, stands out for its combined notes of compote fruits and pastry, lovely hints of vanilla
1994 – balanced, mineral and powerful, great aftertaste
1986 – open and younger than expected, elegant, versatile, comfortable to drink
1981 – round and with full body, spicy, notes of ginger, brioche and yeast
1973 – sweet, mature, great long aftertaste, notes of caramel, hints of vanilla
1970 – concentrated, full body, slightly oxidised, lovely mature notes
1964 – a bit rusty, it called for more time to open, but overall a nice experience
1952 – an historical bottle which for everyone’s delight it proved to be still a fabulous wine. The wine had a pleasant fizziness which was still enjoyable. The notes were dominated by dried black fruits, smoke, black mushrooms, and showed a vibrant spicy sweetness.

image captured during the vintage 1952 pouring process
the bottle of 1952 vintage (it had no label but it had been previously authenticated by the producer, Champagne Taittinger)
the tasting process
the collection of the 18 vintages after the tasting

As for a general conclusion, we can say the cuvées from the 2000’s were still fresh, with the full potential to be reached in the next years, while the decade from 90’s was more versatile, yet calm, and showing its full material. The 1996 and 1998 were excellent! The 80’s felt stable and a bit less interesting that the 70’s that blew our palates with 1973 as a top star. From the 60’s there was only 1964 which initially was falling a bit flat, but after some minutes it became a nice adventure. For the 1952, what can be said more than an outstanding experience, and (still) a great wine!

during a pause between two tasting steps

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