Vaunted French champagne house begins growing in England
The United Kingdom may be quitting the European Union, but at least one delightful vestige of the marriage will be left behind. The storied Taittinger champagne house this month planted its first vines in English soil.
The most recent step in a project that began in 2015, the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes that were planted in early May will be used to produce English sparkling wines, the first of which will be ready for pouring in 2023. Though those are the three varietals traditionally used in making champagne, the bubbly produced in England will not be entitled to use that moniker, as technically the only wines that have the right to be called champagne are those produced in the region of that name in France.
The endeavor is a joint venture between the French champagne giant and UK wine agents Hatch Mansfield, as well as an array of private investors. The group purchased a 69-hectare site near Chilham, Kent, dubbed Domaine Evremond, because Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, the house’s vice president, was intrigued by the properties of the soil there. Taittinger holds a 55 percent stake in the project.
“We were very impressed by the quality of English sparkling wine already produced here,” he told the Guardian newspaper at a ceremony celebrating the first planting. “We believe the combination of chalk soils, climate and topography of our site in Kent are ideal for producing quality sparkling wine. We are aiming to create a wine with a taste that is something truly exceptional. These attributes are perfect for grape growing, and are very similar to the terroir in Champagne. For us it was a natural step.”
The wine, like the site, will be named Domaine Evremond, after Charles de Saint- Évremond, a 17th-century hedonist and writer who was exiled to England after a satirical piece he wrote caused him trouble in his native France. He is credited with having given the English a taste for champagne, the Guardian writes.
Champagne house Vranken-Pommery also has plans to produce sparkling wines in the UK.
The French houses aren’t the only operations that think England is fertile ground for wine. A record 1 million vines are expected to be planted in the island nation this year, Decanter.com reported.
“2017 will see the largest number of vines ever planted in a single year in the UK,” Master of Wine Stephen Skelton, who consulted on the Taittinger project, told the wine specialty magazine.