Pierre-Emmanuel Tattinger, president of Champagne Tattinger, was joined by his wife Claire and daughter Vitalie for the planting at Chilham, in Kent on a chilly afternoon in May.
With partner Patrick McGrath of Hatch Mansfield, Pierre-Emmanuel dug in a few vines and invited assembled representatives of the UK food and drink industry to do their bit. A total of 20 hectares will be planted with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier vines in this first phase of the project. Up to a total of 40 hectares will be added over the next two to three years.
Champagne Tattinger acquired the Kentish land in the autumn of 2015 and announced it would be known as Domaine Evremond. Tattinger is the only Grande Marque Champagne house to establish a vineyard in the UK to make premium English sparkling wine, the first bottles of which will be ready for drinking in 2023, after three years ageing in the bottle.
Pierre-Emmanuel told the audience huddled under umbrellas and in winter coats: “Our family has always had a great affection for the UK and for Kent – my father Jean Taittinger twinned Canterbury with Reims when he was mayor of the latter in the 1950s. We have been very impressed by the quality of English sparkling wine being produced and we believe the combination of chalk soils, climate and topography of our site in Kent are ideal for producing quality sparkling wine. These attributes are perfect for grape growing, and are very similar to the terroir in Champagne, for us it was a natural step to do this.”
Patrick McGrath, MD of partner company Hatch Mansfield added: “Ultimately, we will be aiming to produce 300,000 bottles per year of premium English sparkling wine, but this will not be for six years or more, because the vines will take time to reach the stage where they are producing the quantity of quality fruit required. It will be a gradual process.”