Good value at $350

It’s not often I catch myself telling a wine producer that his $280-$350 wine is good value in comparison to some of its competitors. But I did with Clovis Taittinger (pictured above), who was in Australia to launch his family’s prestige cuvée, the 2005 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs. In my humble opinion, Comtes (tastings) is one of the greatest wines of Champagne.

You might think that only a noble family with great wealth and lineage would dare name their son Clovis, after the first crowned king of France, but no: Clovis is a name that’s experiencing a revival in France, according to its namesake.

Clovis is not one to bore anyone by spouting the expected patter about his family or its wine company, however distinguished. At my house, the jacaranda was in its full springtime purple glory, and he was more interested in talking about trees, and asked if I could send him some seeds so he could try to grow a jacaranda in France. I said I’d send him seeds, but good luck trying to grow one in a damp and chilly northern clime.

He wanted to sit outside on the deck, and I admired his informality, but then I realised he had another motive. He wanted to have a smoke. Or two. No harm there: I like being outdoors too.

Back to the value-for-money theme.

Clovis reassured me that his family’s motivation in making fine Champagne wine was not wealth. Maybe they could charge more for Comtes, but they choose not to.

I hear you retort: only the wealthy can afford to say such things. So it’s a hollow statement. Except that I believed Clovis. And we were drinking coffee and water, not Champagne, so it wasn’t a matter of seduction by bubble.

Amid a swirling conversation about French history, our own family histories, the First World War memorial sites near Champagne, and other matters, I seem to recall him saying the Australian Champagne market was the cheapest, or one of the cheapest, in the world. We can buy good Champagne very affordably, partly because of the exchange rate, partly because of direct imports, supermarkets, paralleling, and other factors. Indeed, Vintage Cellars is advertising the very good Taittinger Brut Reserve NV at $49.99 as we speak. Historically, this is cheap. Is the Australian market still profitable for Taittinger, I ask? “Oh yes, certainly,” Clovis replied.

They wouldn’t be doing it at that price if it wasn’t.

But I come back to the same point that I do frequently in discussions of value-for-money: for a superb sparkling wine, made from expensive Champagne grapes by a labour-intensive process and aged for three years on lees before disgorgement, fifty bucks is cheap. Just look at all the Johnny-come-latelies in the Barossa and Yarra Valleys selling two-year-old red wines made from young vines for substantially more than $50.

I tell you sonny: you ain’t never ‘ad it so good. 

*Taittinger’s 2005 Comtes de Champagne will be released in January at $350 RRP.

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