French champagne house Taittinger – James Bond’s bubbly of choice – announced shocking plans to produce fine English sparkling wines December 8. The Reims-based firm will become the first Champagne house to make such a bold move with the purchase of farmland in Kent.
Established in 1734, Taittinger said it had teamed up with British wine company Hatch Mansfield and private investors to purchase 69 hectares (170 acres) of farmland at Stone Stile Farm in Kent, south east England.
Forty hectares of this will be planted with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier vines to produce sparkling wine, said the company.
“We have dreamt for a number of years of working with our dear friends in the UK to create a special Franco/British project,” said Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, president of Champagne Taittinger.
“We believe we can produce a high quality English sparkling wine drawing 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 added.
The company said it had chosen the former apple farm, close to Canterbury, due to a combination of soil, climate and topography.
“The plots to be planted are a maximum of 80 meters above sea level, with chalk soil and south-facing slopes, creating an ideal ‘terroir’ to plant and grow high quality Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier vines,” it said.
The first fruit for winemaking is expected to be available in 2020 and bottled in 2021, with 300,000 bottles to be produced per year when fully operational. Britain is second only to France in consumption of Champagne, with retailers shipping 32.7 million bottles in 2014.