Taittinger UK Domaine Evremond Vineyard interview with
The famous Champagne house Taittinger have planted an English vineyard to produce English sparkling wine. The English sparkling wines will be ready for release in the coming years. Whilst the vineyard has been planted and is soon to bear its English grapes, we caught up with Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger to find out more.
Pierre, could you provide some background on your career?
I suppose for me it begins in 1976. My uncle Claude was in charge and I joined the business as a salesman and in fact one of my first experiences was coming to work in the UK. I then went on to manage the sales in France and moved on to be Assistant Managing Director and then finally Managing Director. It gave me such a good grounding in understanding the business. Then in 2005 Taittinger was sold to Starwood, it became my mission to buy our family business back and in 2006 I achieved this with support of many friends and family and the Crédit Agricole. At that time an important new chapter in the history of Taittinger was opened and I became President and I built a first class team who have worked tirelessly to make Taittinger what it is today. My daughter Vitalie and son Clovis joined me at this time; this brought me great joy and I am very proud of them and all that they do. Last year I decided it was time for me to step down and let the next generation start another chapter in our history. However, our project in Kent is something very close to my heart and so I intend to continue to be involved.
Tattinger uk - Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger
Why has Taittinger decided to plant a vineyard in England to produce English sparkling wine?
I have always loved everything British, your sense of humour, your way of working and even your beer. I started my career here, it is our number one export market and when my father was Mayor of Reims he twinned Reims with Canterbury. We have dreamt of doing something like this for a number of years to work with our friends in the UK and create a special Franco/British project. It is also no secret that parts of England share the same chalky soils as Champagne and the climate is increasingly temperate - we started to look for land and in 2015 we found the perfect site near Chilham, our dream became a reality and here we are today. Our aim is to make a high quality English sparkling wine here and each day we learn more and more about the land, the climate and how everything comes together in the terroir.
Where is and How big is the English vineyard that Taittinger has planted to produce its English sparkling wine?
Our first purchase was 69 hectares at Selling Court Farm in Kent and we have since then bought another 8.5 hectares. The sites are all perfect for growing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier: former arable land with chalky soils, south and south-east facing slopes. We have planted 28.5 hectares so far.
How are you involved with the English Vineyard and will you be involved with the English sparkling wine?
I will be involved of course but we have a fantastic team working on the domaine. Our viticulturists, Vincent Collard and Christine Rinvelle, and our Chef de Caves (winemaker), Alexandre Ponnavoy, in Champagne have very much been involved with the local teams working on the plantings and vineyard management so far.
With such an impressive and prestigious history Taittinger has produced some of the finest Champagnes. Are there any vintages in particular that remind you of excellence and that you're particularly proud of?
We only make a vintage when the conditions are good enough. Like my children I love them all. However the one that is very close to my heart is 2006 - this is the year we bought back the family business and we had an exceptional vintage. The Comtes de Champagne from that year has a special place for me.
Do you think that English sparkling wine and Champagne should be considered as separate wines, defined by region and terroir or should they be all classed together?
Absolutely. They should be classed as completely separate wines. Despite some similarities, the terroirs produce different wines and the nuances of local winemaking, regional management, heritage and the people all have a part to play in producing wines with distinct personalities. The sparkling wine market will forever be popular with their different occasions and moments and there is space for everyone.
What has been your experience of English wine to date?
The wines are very high quality. The people, professional, talented, accommodating and wonderful personalities. At Domaine Evremond we are working with six other wineries as part of the Wine Garden of England, based in Kent. We are working together to create an experience for tourists. It is a pleasure working with these other wineries – so many passionate people.
How does Taittinger approach making wine? What is unique about Taittinger?
For Taittinger Champagne our hallmark is the Chardonnay grape, which brings elegance and finesse. Taittinger is light and fresh we do not use oak on most of our cuvées but they spend a long time on their lees. Our Brut Réserve waves our flag – unlike some other houses who put all their focus on their top Champagnes, we are just as proud of our Brut Réserve Non Vintage as we are of our top cuvée, Comtes de Champagne.
In an interview with decanter you mentioned that you are ‘the coach and the bottles are the players’ Could you explain what you mean by this?
It is the teamwork and the confidence I have in my players. A lot of work has gone into making the wines the best they can be so then when I present my wines for the world to taste, I am confident that they will perform as they were meant to be.
What are your personal favourite wines of choice. Do you make sure that your wines complement food too?
I am always seduced by our Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs, at any age – in its vibrant youth after 10 years ageing on lees or after being in the cellar for 15 years, when it reveals layers and layers of complexity. It has a different but beautiful personality at every stage of its life. However, I am also a fan of the English beers, when I visit this is what I like to drink. Of course, wine should complement food but I don’t like to be too studious about this – wine is for enjoying.