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Sparkling: The Story of Champagne premieres at Cannes Film Festival and filmed in Kent vineyards


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A star-studded feature-length documentary about the story of champagne, filmed in Kent, will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival tomorrow.

The stellar ensemble cast in Sparkling: The Story of Champagne by Swipe Films and directed by Frank Mannion examines whether the English were, in fact, first to create the fizz before the French.

Tony Laithwaite Great Park winemaker and filmmaker Frank Mannion share a toast
Tony Laithwaite Great Park winemaker and filmmaker Frank Mannion share a toast

Kent locations where filming took place include Hush Heath in Staplehurst, Squerryes Court in Westerham, Taittinger’s Domaine Evremond outside the village of Chilham, Churchill’s home of Chartwell and Reculver Towers and, of course, the White Cliffs of Dover.

Frank, making his directorial debut, said: "We were delighted to film in Kent and explore its beautiful landmarks. We captured some dramatic aerial shots of the stunning coastline and the White Cliffs of Dover. The Cliffs have a special resonance in the film as its chalk stacks reveal why Kent is perfect for vine-growing – the rich seam of chalk soil that makes the champagne region so famous, continues right up through France to the south of England.

"The film looks at the impact of climate change - the champagne region is gradually becoming too hot for the growing of grapes leading to the likes of Pommery and Taittinger acquiring and planting vineyards in the south of England (the chalk soil in Kent - best manifested by the White Cliffs of Dover - is the same as the champagne region). By exploring the origins of the drink, the film provides an affectionate look at Anglo-French relations. Kent can now truly be considered The ‘Vine’ Garden of England.”

Watch the video trailer here:

The story of Squerryes at Westerham explains how Henry Warde, an eighth generation landowner, was inspired to plant a vineyard, following a visit from representatives of Champagne Duval Leroy. They had travelled over to France with a view to acquiring some of the Warde family’s land. Their land shares the same chalk soil as the Champagne region.

He appears with his cocker spaniel, while also featuring are Hush Heath owners Leslie and Richard Balfour.

Henry Warde of Squerryes at Westerham
Henry Warde of Squerryes at Westerham

Others with Kent links featuring include Sir Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Winston Churchill - who famously drank thousands of Imperial pint sized bottles of Pol Roger in his lifetime - and best-selling author, Oz Clarke.

Frank added: "The film is a love letter to the joys and pleasures of champagne. There are so many great wine tours and tastings to be enjoyed within an hour or two’s drive from London at the likes of Hush Heath and Squerryes in Kent, Bolney and Wiston Estate in West Sussex - all great day trips. Our hope is that the film will open the audience’s eyes to the quality and variety of English wine and they will enjoy immersing themselves in the world of champagne while raising a toast to better things ahead in 2021.”

Gillian Anderson (left) with Vitalie Taittinger at the BAFTAs
Gillian Anderson (left) with Vitalie Taittinger at the BAFTAs

The film, which will have its will have its international premiere features major players from the A-list world of Champagne, from Taittinger president Vitalie Taittinger and Bollinger chairman Etienne Bizot, to Dom Perignon wine-maker Vincent Chaperon, and the Queen’s winemaker, Tony Laithwaite.

Squerryes' owner Henry Warde (and his cocker spaniel) and Hush Heath owners also feature.

Despite being filmed during lockdown, as wine producers were classified as essential workers, it meant filming could still go ahead in the UK.

Brad Pitt with his Champagne Fleur de Miraval Picture: SwipeFilms/ Fleur de Mirava
Brad Pitt with his Champagne Fleur de Miraval Picture: SwipeFilms/ Fleur de Mirava

The film also has an American element, with Piper Heidsieck's Champagne house featuring - Marilyn Monroe's favourite and long-time sponsor of the Cannes Film Festival - as well as New York locations such as Bemelsman Bar at the Carlyle Hotel, Baccarat Bar and the glamorous Great Gatsby Ball at the Capitale, sponsored by Pommery.

Britbox has acquired the film for its streaming service in the UK and will release it on Thursday, July 29.

Stephen Fry features Picture: Elliott Spencer
Stephen Fry features Picture: Elliott Spencer

The Swipe Films production is produced by Oxana Popkova and Frank Mannion, and edited by Charlie Emseis.

For more entertainment news across Kent click here.

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