Taittinger Champagne house buys UK farm to make premium English sparkling wine
Taittinger has become the first Champagne house to invest in the UK after buying a former apple orchard in Kent to make premium English sparkling wine.
The label has teamed up with British wine agent Hatch Mansfield and private investors to buy 69 hectares of farmland at Stone Stile Farm near Chilham.
With its chalk soil and south-facing slopes up to 80 metres above sea level, it is regarded as an ideal plot to grow high quality chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier vines.
The wine - reportedly ready to bottle in five years - will be named Domaine Evremond after Charles de Saint-Evremond, a 17th century ambassador for Champagne who is said to have helped popularise it in England.
The investment is another boost to the reputation of English wines, which has grown immeasurably in recent years thanks partly to chalky subsoil similar to that found in the Champagne region.
British vineyards have produced sparkling wines that regularly beat Champagnes in international competitions and blind taste tests.
Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, president of Champagne Taittinger, said: "We have dreamt for a number of years of working with our dear friends in the UK to create a special Franco-British project.
"Built on the values of friendship, this venture will create something special to show our appreciation of the UK support for Champagne - it is Champagne Taittinger's number one export market.
"We are very excited that this dream is now becoming a reality. We believe we can produce a high quality English sparkling wine, drawing on our 80 years of wine-making expertise.
"Our aim is to make something of real excellence in the UK's increasingly temperate climate, and not to compare it with Champagne or any other sparkling wine.
"Our family has already had considerable success planting sparkling wine vineyards in the USA in 1987 when we launched Domaine Carneros by Taittinger, our venture with the Kopf family of Kobrand Wine & Spirits.
"We hope to replicate this success in the UK, working alongside our UK agent, Hatch Mansfield."
He said the family has strong links to Kent as his father, Jean Taittinger, twinned Canterbury with Reims when he was mayor of the French city more than 45 years ago.
Patrick McGrath, managing director of Hatch Mansfield, said: "As a team, we have a real belief in the potential of English sparkling wine.
"Our aim is not just to be an English sparkling winemaker, but also to be a significant supporter of the whole English wine industry."