Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger of the eponymous Champagne house today announced his plans to plant a vineyard in England and to produce English sparkling wine.
A 171-acre site has been purchased from a fruit farm in the southern county of Kent where Taittinger—together with a group of English investors—intends to plant 99 acres with traditional Champagne varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. In a move that will delight English wine growers who have won countless accolades with their traditional method wines, Taittinger gives a ringing endorsement to the emerging region.
Taittinger, who admitted that he “had dreamt for a number of years of working with our dear friends in the U.K. to create a special Franco-British project,” emphasized that everything hinged upon locating the right site. The prospective vineyards are on a low-lying, sheltered site of chalk. “We believe we can produce a high quality English sparking wine drawing on our 80 years of winemaking expertise,” he says. “Our aim is to make something of real excellence in the U.K.’s increasingly temperate climate and not to compare it with Champagne or any other sparkling wine.” The first wines are not expected to be released before 2020.
The United Kingdom Wine & Spirits Association hailed the move as the “French investing in England’s sparkling future.” Rumors of Champagne houses prospecting English land circulated for years but became more subdued with the world financial crisis. Taittinger, who created a similar and very successful partnership with Kobrand to create Domaine Carneros in California, emphasised the symbolic nature of the project, furthering the friendship between Champagne and the U.K., which traditionally has been Champagne’s largest export market with roughly 32 million bottles shipped each year, compared to roughly 19 million bottles annually to the United States.
Dubbed Domaine Evremond, the project is named after the French writer and epicurean Charles de Saint Evremond (1613-1703), a confidant to King Charles II at the English court and, according to Taittinger, “Champagne’s first true ambassador.” Evremond is buried in Westminster Abbey’s famous Poets’ Corner in London. England now has 4942 acres of vineyard, an increase of over 130% over the past decade. There are now approximately 130 brands of English sparkling wine while Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier account for 50% of the plantings.