NV Chartogne-Taillet Cuvée Sainte-Anne Brut, $36, Terry Theise Selections/Michael Skurnik Imports. First of all, the $36 price tag is today's price, this is what you'll see the wine selling for right now. And that's pretty great, considering most $36 Champagne a year ago now costs $44 or more. For whatever reason, this excellent non-vintage wine is still in the mid $30's and although it's an excellent wine, it's also a great value.
This is the April, 2008 disgorgement and it is based mostly on 2004 grapes with 20% from 2002. The blend is 50% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, and 10% Meunier. It is interesting to note that the Meunier in this wine is from non-grafted pre-phylloxera vines.
I've always like this wine and this is the best version I've tasted. It is a classic, a caricature of what good Champagne should be. Overtly fruity and joyous, and with real depth and character to the nose, and a lively and round feeling in the mouth. Good acidity and a chalky and floral fragrance on the finish. Totally accessible and delicious wine. This is the bottle to open for someone who thinks they don't like Champagne.
The Chartogne-Taillet estate is located in the village of Merfy, to the northwest of Reims. Peter Liem's June post on the 1999 vintage wine describes Merfy and the vineyard soils in good detail, and explains why this wine might be a bit different in character from many others in the Montagne de Reims.
There are 6 wines that I know of in the Chartogne-Taillet portfolio: this non-vintage Brut, a Brut Rosé, a Blanc de Blancs, a demi-sec, a vintage wine, and the tête de cuvée called Cuvée Fiacre. I've drank the 1996 and the 1999 vintages, and both were excellent wines. I tasted the 2000 a few months ago and loved it, although I haven't yet seen it on shelves. The vintage wines will be more expensive now - I bought the 1999 for $55 a year ago, which seems cheap now. I've never seen the Fiacre on shelves, which is a shame. It is a Chardonnay dominant wine from the estate's oldest vines, and it's a coeur de cuvée, the best part, or heart of the juice, without the first or last several hundred liters of the pressing. This concept is better described by, again, Peter Liem in his post discussing the wines of Vilmart:
"...a special selection of the very heart of the cuvée—in Champagne, a 4,000 kilogram pressing yields 2,050 liters of juice in the cuvée, and Champs selects only the finest 800 liters from the middle of the pressing to make the Coeur de Cuvée. (Although not an exact comparison, think about the heads and the tails in the distilling of spirits.)"Happily, Chartogne-Taillet's Cuvée Fiacre is not prohibitively expensive - maybe $75 a bottle. Yes, that's a lot of money, but like the Cuvée Sainte-Anne Brut that is the subject of this post, it is one of the better wines of it's class, and also the among the least expensive.