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Taittinger Champagne plants first vines in Kent

By Chris Price

The president of one of France’s longest-established champagne families has dug the first ground on his first vineyard in Kent.

On a rainy May morning, Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger planted the first vines in the Domaine Evremond vineyard in Chilham, nearly 18 months after first signalling his intention to make English sparkling wine.

The first 50 acres of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes will have been planted by the end of the week – with plans to plant nearly 100 acres over the next two to three years.

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Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger ready to plant the first vines at Domaine Evremond in Chilham

Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger ready to plant the first vines at Domaine Evremond in Chilham

Taittinger is the only grand marque champagne house still run by its eponymous family.

The first of its English sparkling wine should be ready to drink in 2023, after three years of aging in the bottle.

Mr Taittinger dismissed the rainy launch of his vineyard as “a sign of good luck”.

He said: “The weather is nice. Water is a key issue for the world today. For me the most important thing is to feel the sunshine in the glass.

“The sparkling wine will have the colour of the sunshine. What is important is to sell some sunshine for the happiness of our hearts.

Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger and Patrick McGrath at Domaine Evremond

Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger and Patrick McGrath at Domaine Evremond

He added: “It’s a wonderful day because it expresses the great friendship I feel for Great Britain.

“I started my career here in Great Britain 40 years ago, based in Chelsea in London, and 40 years after we are going to develop a wonderful venture with an English company.”

Mr Taittinger already has close links to the site of his new vineyard.

Nearby Canterbury is twinned with his hometown of Rheims, where his father was deputy mayor.

“It is synomymous with me with the excellent friendship between our two countries,” he added.

Taittinger’s venture into the UK has been done with English partner Hatch Mansfield, which has been importing Taittinger Champagne into the UK for 18 years.

Managing director Patrick McGrath said: “This is a dream that started three years ago with a conversation with Pierre-Emmanuel Tattinger when we were talking about the renaissance of English sparkling wine.

“He said ‘let’s do something together in England’. We chose Kent because it’s the Garden of England.

"It’s warmer, it’s dryer and we found this great apple farm which is south facing, on chalk and has all the right ingredients to make some really good sparkling wine.”

It was a double day of major plantings for Kent.

Simpsons Wine Estate in Barham has begun the final phase of planting which began in 2014.

It will add 40,000 chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier vines across 25 acres over the next two days.

“The inspiring thing is we will be living with these vines for the next 40 or 50 years,” said co-owner Charles Simpson, who runs the winery with his wife Ruth.

“If all goes to plan, we should be picking fruit off here in 2019.”

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