Which wine is light enough to let you rest well during a long-haul flight?
For Singapore Airlines’ long-serving wine consultants, Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne – which is now being served in First Class – gets top billing.
Earlier this year, Singapore Airlines’ wine consultants – Michael Hill-Smith, an Australian Master of Wine; Jeannie Cho Lee, the first Asian Master of Wine; and Oz Clarke, a wine author – visited Champagne and tasted dozens of bubblies, one of which was Champagne Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne, a Blanc de Blancs. The ambrosia from the esteemed Reims-based maison was eventually rated as one of their top three bubblies.
The Comtes de Champagne will be served on flights to Auckland, Beijing, Delhi, Dubai, Melbourne, Mumbai, Seoul, Shanghai, Sydney, and Tokyo (Haneda), and will be rotated to other routes after February 2020. Champagne remains popular on board the airline – more than 350,000 bottles of bubbly are served on its flights every year.
Wine-loving frequent flyers would notice that the airline’s latest vino pour is overdue – other airlines like Air France, Cathay Pacific, and Qantas already have the Comtes de Champagne in their First Class stash – but better than late than never. The airline had also expanded its Burgundy offerings in March this year, so the Comtes de Champagne is an icing on the cake.
“We have been looking to diversify our wine selections for passengers, and the Comtes de Champagne gives us another opportunity to introduce a fabulous champagne in our First Class cabin,” said Anthony McNeil, Singapore Airlines’ food and beverage director. This is the first Taittinger bubbly that is offered in the airline’s First Class, although regulars of its Business Class would have already been acquainted with the Prelude, one of Taittinger’s premium pours.
“We have been looking to diversify our wine selections for passengers, and the Comtes de Champagne gives us another opportunity to introduce a fabulous champagne in our First Class cabin.” – Anthony McNeil
The main difference between the Prelude and the Comtes de Champagne is its grapes: The former is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, while the latter is made only from Chardonnay – a white grape known for its elegance and acidity in Champagne – and thus its label as a Blanc de Blancs (White of Whites).
With Chardonnay sourced from Cote des Blancs’ Grand Cru vineyards of Avize, Chouilly, Cramant, Le-Mesnil-sur-Oger, and Oger, the Comtes de Champagne is widely regarded as Taittinger’s purest and finest bubbly. The champagne is made from the first press wine (the highest quality juice that comes from the first ‘cut’ of the grape-pressing), with just five percent of the wine matured in new oak barrels to take on a little toasted note. The blend is then bottled and left to mature in an underground cellar for eight to ten years.
For the champagne’s high-altitude launch, the 2007 vintage will be poured.
“The 2007 was a good vintage: The wine is very lean, refined, and minerally. Its flavour profile is precise and very typical of the Comtes de Champagne style,” said Clovis Taittinger, deputy managing director of Champagne Taittinger, and the eldest child of Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, the maison’s president. (Pierre-Emmanuel had recently announced that he will hand over his presidency to Clovis’ sister, Vitalie, by the end of this year.)
The lightness of the Comtes de Champagne was one of the reasons why the bubbly earned its ticket to First Class. McNeil and his team taste-tested their shortlisted wines in a simulated pressurised cabin [to recreate the conditions of in-flight dining] at their SATS catering firm, and the Comtes de Champagne “remained drinkable, fresh, and vibrant”.
“The Comtes de Champagne can be drunk on its own, or paired with lots of dishes, except maybe for rich, oily food with a lot of sauce,” said Taittinger. “When you are in the air, you’d look for [a wine] that is light and balanced; something that lets you rest well during the flight.”
“The Comtes de Champagne can be drunk on its own, or paired with lots of dishes, except maybe for rich, oily food with a lot of sauce.” – Clovis Taittinger