First 40 hectares will be planted with chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes in 2017, with first bottles likely to be filled in five years
Taittinger is to become the first French champagne house to produce fizz in the UK after investing in a former Kent apple orchard.
The company has teamed up with British wine agents Hatch Mansfield and private investors to buy 69 hectares of farmland near Chilham, with the first bottles expected to be filled in five years.
The first 40 hectares will be planted with chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes in 2017 to produce English sparkling wine – only fizz produced in the Champagne region of France can carry the title.
Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, president of Champagne Taittinger, said: “We believe we can produce a high quality English sparkling wine drawing upon on our 80 years of winemaking 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.”
He said the company wanted to “create something special to show our appreciation of the UK support for champagne – it is Champagne Taittinger’s number one export market”.
The new wine will be named Domaine Évremond, after Charles de Saint-Évremond, who fuelled the popularity of champagne in England during the late 1600s at the court of Charles II. He was buried in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey, London.
Taittinger said the chalky soil and south-facing slopes in Kent created the ideal terroir – soil, microclimate and topography – to plant and grow high-quality grapes for sparkling wine.
The French company’s investment comes amid a boom in English sparkling wine production. Champagne producers have been rumoured to have an interest in investing in the UK for some time, as the rising popularity of homegrown fizz threatens to eat into their market.
Burgeoning demand for brands such as Nyetimber, Chapel Down and Ridgeview is turning parts of the South Downs and beyond into an English Épernay after a doubling of the amount of land devoted to vineyards in the past seven years and a 43% rise in wine production last year.
Chapel Down raised £4m via a crowdfunding exercise last year to back expansion into a further 326 acres of vineyard over the five years.
The UK accounts for 25% of Champagne Taittinger’s exports.
This article was written by Sarah Butler, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 9th December 2015 12.56 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010