‘Always the same champagne? That’s like wearing the same dress every day, boring! ‘ The Brussels champagne maker Virginie Taitinger is launching a cuvée especially for the parties that is meant to pop with the macaroons of the French luxury house Ladurée. Very limited edition.
And say she doesn’t have a sweet tooth at all. Isn’t it strange, for someone who makes a special champagne for Ladurée, the world’s most famous producer of macaroons? “I really learned to appreciate the pastries of that Parisian pastry chef thanks to our collaboration,” says Virginie Taittinger in her beautiful mansion in Brussels. ‘Although I am now fond of their raspberry macaroons. I find it irresistible! ‘
For a year and a half, Virginie Taittinger, founder of the champagne house Virginie T, worked with her son on the ‘Champagne Macarons’. ‘I wanted to make a champagne that enhances the special taste of the Ladurée macaroons. Because this Parisian pastry chef illustrates like no other the chic à la française that you can also find in the castle of Versailles, for example. ‘
To determine the taste, I imagined two good friends sitting in a tea room on the Champs Elysées or rue Royale eating a few macaroons, accompanied by a glass of champagne. Macaroons are a special delicacy: sweet and scented with different flavors. The most popular turned out to be the vanilla variety, so we took that as a reference. ‘
Chocolate lovers will probably be disappointed: Ladurée chocolate macaroons should not be combined with champagne. ‘The bitterness of chocolate conflicts with the taste palette of champagne.’
Taittinger is certainly proud of its macaroon champagne – an extra-dry vintage 2009 -. “2009 was a great year,” she says. ‘We were able to harvest in late August that year, which is exceptionally early. The grapes had a very nice sugar content around that time. This results in a wine that is naturally very round. ‘
The blend consists of pinot noir from the Montagne de Reims, pinot meunier and about 25 percent Chardonnay grapes. ‘Pinot noir is a very fruity grape variety that perfectly supports the flavor of the macaroons. Just what we needed. ‘
People find it logical to drink different wines with a dinner, unfortunately this is not yet commonplace for champagne. Too bad, because there are so many nuances.
Commenting on whether an extra-dry champagne is not a strange choice – most would perhaps opt for the sweeter demi-sec, by analogy with a good dessert wine – Taittinger answers firmly: ‘Completely wrong! Together with the Ladurée team, we unanimously went for an extra-dry. Macaroons are very sweet, a champagne with a higher sugar content would not have been pleasant. ‘
The evolution of our taste also played a role in this choice. “Champagne used to be much sweeter because it was often consumed with desserts,” says Taittinger. ‘My grandmother, who was still chairman of Piper-Heidsieck, served a demi-sec with’ biscuits de Reims ‘and pies at the time.’
‘Nobody drinks that anymore. Yes, in Asia it is still somewhat consumed or drunk as ‘piscine’ (champagne with ice cubes, ed.). But today we usually eat and drink less sugars. So I take that into account. When I prepare a dessert from an old cookbook, I always use a third less sugar than what the recipe calls for, otherwise it is far too sweet. That says a lot about our current taste palette. ‘
No more space
Champagne literally flows through Virginie Taittinger’s veins. Her father Claude developed the Taittinger champagne house into a renowned label; her mother’s family owned Piper-Heidsieck until 1988.
Before Virginie founded her own champagne brand with Virginie T., she had been employed by Taittinger for 21 years – including as an export manager. But everything changed when her uncle Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger took over in 2007 and gave his children Vitalie and Clovis top positions. Suddenly there was no place in the company for his niece Virginie.
“When I had to leave Taittinger, my father said, start your own business, girl. The timing was perfect: I was 47 and had tons of experience in the champagne world. But when I started my champagne house, I also knew I didn’t have the resources to compete with the big brands. My only future was to set up an haute couture studio for special champagnes that are the opposite of what the big houses offer. I wanted to be pointu and create a niche brand. ‘
It means that she can hold her own in a world dominated by the big brands. ‘My father used to say, either you’re a giant or an artist. The LVMH group, with all its brands, represents one third of the global market. In contrast, I will be selling about 35,000 bottles this year. I can, so to speak, give a kiss to all the grapes I have used. (laughs) ‘
Or take Moët & Chandon, the world leader and a very good champagne that is drunk in every country. That’s a war machine! If you have to compete against that, you don’t stand a chance. But there is still room for craftsmen. We have produced 5000 bottles of Champagne Macarons, which is a huge amount for us. And it really isn’t champagne for everyone. Haute couture is also not for each of us. But I am condemned to it. ‘
If Virginie Taittinger wants to make one thing clear, it is that there is no such thing as one type of champagne. ‘There is one for any time of the day. A champagne for brunch or breakfast is different from champagne as an aperitif, with dinner or with dessert.
People find it logical to drink different wines with a dinner, unfortunately this is not yet commonplace for champagne. Too bad, because there are so many nuances. Drinking the same champagne all the time is like wearing the same dress every day. Dull. I always let my choice depend on the circumstances and the product with which it is served. ‘
Virginie Taittinger is currently also working on a special champagne for caviar.
The Champagne Macarons are available in the Ladurée boutiques (there are thirteen in Paris).