Taittinger makes history by becoming the first champagne house to plant vines in the UK and tap into the booming English sparkling wine industry.
A renowned French champagne house today made history by becoming the first to plant vines in the UK and tap into the booming English sparkling wine industry.
Champagne Taittinger entered into a joint venture with UK wine agents Hatch Mansfield and bought up land in Chilham, Kent, to plant 40 hectares of vines over the next three years.
Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, president of Champagne Taittinger, admitted he was so impressed by the quality of English sparkling wine that the family decided to start bottling their own.
The champagne house earmarked the Kent countryside as having the perfect conditions for grape growing – thanks to its chalk soils, climate and topography – and acquired the farmland in Autumn 2015.
He was today joined by his wife, Claire, daughter, Vitalie, and Hatch Mansfield representatives to plant the first of 20 hectares of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier vines at the new estate.
The new wine will be named Domaine Évremond after Charles de Saint-Évremond, who is credited with helping introduce 17th-century London to the habit of quaffing champagne in the court of King Charles II.
Mr Taittinger, 63, said: ‘Our family has always had a great affection for the UK and for Kent – my father Jean Taittinger twinned Canterbury with Reims when he was mayor of the latter in the 1950s.
‘We have been very impressed by the quality of English sparkling wine being produced, and we believe the combination of chalk soils, climate and topography of our site in Kent are ideal for producing quality sparkling wine.
‘These attributes are perfect for grape growing, and are very similar to the terroir in Champagne, for us it was a natural step to do this.’
The first English Sparkling wine from Domaine Évremond is expected to be released for drinking in 2023, after three years of ageing in the bottle.
Patrick McGrath, managing director of Hatch Mansfield and Master of Wine, said: ‘Ultimately we will be aiming to produce 300,000 bottles per year of premium English Sparkling Wine, but this will not be for six years or more as the vines will take time to reach the stage where they are producing the quantity of quality fruit required.
‘It will be a gradual process.’
English wine expert Stephen Skelton MW, one of the UK’s leading viticulture consultants, worked with the Domaine Évremond team in the capacity of viticultural advisor, helping to secure the ideal plot for vineyard development.
A record-breaking one million vines are expected to be planted in the UK this year covering approximately 625 acres – the equivalent of London’s Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens combined.
Industry body English Wine Producers says most of the vines will principally be Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and will yield another two million bottles of mainly sparkling wine – adding an estimated £50m to the industry.
Since the year 2000, acreage taken up by vineyards has nearly tripled – resulting in wine production becoming one of the fastest growing agricultural sectors in the UK.
Taittinger is the only Grande Marque Champagne House to be run by its eponymous family and is the first to establish a vineyard in the UK to make premium English Sparkling wine.
Founded in 1734, the Taittinger Champagne house is based in Reims, France – the unofficial capital of the country’s champagne region.
The flagship wines of the house are the Comtes de Champagne, consisting entirely of Chardonnay grapes, and the Comtes de Champagne Rosé which is a combination of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The family has already had considerable success planting vineyards for sparkling wine in California’s Napa Valley, in the USA, in 1987 when they launched ‘Domaine Carneros by Taittinger’, a joint venture with the Kopf family of Kobrand Wine & Spirits.