A historic event took place last week in the world of English wine. Taittinger became the first Champagne House to plant vines in UK soil and as you would expect, the launch was carried out in style.
Guests were invited to a digging party - no that’s not a typo, I said digging party - in a field in Chilham, deep in the glorious Kent countryside, to help plant the first vines of the Domaine Evremond vineyard.
In a joint venture with wine agents Hatch Mansfield, Taittinger have bought 40 hectares of land where they will plant vines over the next three years.
WSTA Chief Executive, Miles Beale and I were delighted to have been asked to don our best outdoor boots and join the other invitees in laying down the Domaine Evremond roots.
The digging party were left in the capable hands of Pierre-Emmanual Taittanger, President of Champagne Taittinger, who in his own inimitable style, spoke about his passion for wine making and his great affection for the UK and for Kent:
“Our family has always had a great affection for the UK and for Kent. We have been very impressed by the quality of English Sparkling wine being produced. The combination of chalk soils, climate and topography of our site in Kent are perfect for grape growing, and are very similar to the terroir in Champagne, for us it was a natural step to do this.”
After a short masterclass on how to plant a vine, by leading viticulturist Stephen Skelton MW, we were handed a specially engraved commemorative trowel to get the first 20 hectares of planting underway.
As I dug into the ground I found myself willing the vine on - telling it to stay strong, keep safe from frosts and produce the plumpest grapes in the hope that one day I will be chinking a flute of Evremond and telling folks ‘I helped to make this bottle’. Well if it’s good enough for the Prince of Wales then what’s the harm in having a quiet word with such an important plant.
I will, however, have some time to wait before I can toast the English sparkling wine I helped to plant as the first bottles from Domaine Evermond won’t be released for drinking until 2023, after three years of ageing in a bottle.
In the meantime we can all continue to enjoy the great wines already produced in Kent which we were lucky enough to be invited to sample back in the Taittinger marque after planting. Chapel Down, Biddenden, Simpsons, Hush Heath, Gusbourne all brought their wines to the event to share with guests and reaffirm why Taittinger and Hatch Mansfield have made a wise decision to invest in this English wine venture.
We left the rest of the planting to the expert Volker, who whizzed up and down the field in his GPS planting tractor expertly laying down the rest of the vines with ultimate German efficiency.
The new wine will be named Domaine Évremond after Charles de Saint-Évremond, who is credited with helping introduce 17th-century London to the habit of quaffing champagne in the court of King Charles II.
A fantastic event and great way to celebrate the continued - and continuing - successes of the English wine.