The weather was not auspicious – cold and wet, the sky remaining grey and lowering all day.
Yet under those gloomy skies, something rather important was happening. Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, President of Champagne Taittinger and Patrick McGrath, MD of their UK importer Hatch Mansfield got their hands and feet dirty, planting the first vine in the Kent soil which will become Domaine Evremond, Champagne Taittinger’s English wine venture.
Then 250 and fifty of us got to do the same, using our own individually numbered commemorative trowels.
Evidence of Anglo-French entente cordiale was everywhere.
Pierre-Emmanuel was at pains to point out that they do not simply intend to helicopter in the Champagne Taittinger model to Kent, but wish to adapt to local conditions and to learn from the existing Kentish producers of sparkling wine – many of whom were in attendance, providing a tasting of their wines.
Taittinger is known for the high proportion of Chardonnay in its light, elegant Champagnes. However, Pierre-Emmanuel specified that at Domaine Evremond 50% of the plantings will be Pinot Noir, as “Here we have a better quality for Pinot Noir.”
This is not the first time Taittinger has made sparkling wine outside France – its Domaine Carneros operation in California was founded in the 1980s. 85% of Carneros’ production is sold at the cellar door, but, as Pierre-Emmanuel pointed out, it hardly ever rains in California, so wine tourism there is highly developed. They do not expect to manage the same feat in Kent – a fact which was not lost on the audience, as we huddled in the marquee, clutching our glasses of Comtes de Champagne 2006 for warmth.
Vine planted, my work here is done. The real masterstroke of the day was this – 250 members of the wine trade and press now literally have a stake in the future of Domaine Evremond – bravo!