With the House’s historic site on Saint-Nicaise hill currently undergoing renovation work, Maison Taittinger has relocated its customer reception to the beautiful Comtes de Champagne Residence in the centre of Reims, where visitors can take part in a unique audio experience that allows them to discover its history and champagnes differently.
The Comtes de Champagne: a great lineage of counts who reigned over this region for three centuries. Today the name is primarily associated with Maison Taittinger’s prestigious cuvee. It is no coincidence that Thibaud IV’s seal is affixed to the bottles. It was Thibaud IV (1201-1253) who left the most significant mark on his era, both as heir to the Kingdom of Navarre through his mother and as an illustrious troubadour and poet, an advocate of courtly love. But also because legend has it that upon his return from a Holy Land crusade, he brought back a Damask rose and, more importantly, some plants from a new grape variety that would later prove invaluable in the production of champagne: Chardonnay. The one and the same that now forms the basis for the Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc cuvee.
From 14 January 2023, Maison Taittinger is organising a unique encounter with this 13th-century figure in the iconic Comtes de Champagne Residence in Reims. Once serving as a reception room and ceremonial hall during the coronations of French Kings in the cathedral, this city centre location miraculously escaped damage from bombings during the First World War and has retained its medieval character. It is the perfect place for living history and champagne wines to meet, with its soundscapes an ideal backdrop both for travelling through time and for tastings.
To enable the public to fully appreciate its beautiful chalk cellars tucked under Saint-Nicaise hill, a listed World Heritage Site, Maison Taittinger has started works to refurbish and update its tour circuit and welcome areas. With access to these areas closed for the duration of the works, the House looked for a way to maintain the connection with its visitors and customers and to spark their curiosity. By surrounding itself with artists and specialists of the period, chosen both for their talent and their links to the region, it devised a new pop-up experience, inspired by Middle Age banquets which would gather many guests together around the same table to celebrate important events.
The adventure begins on the first floor of the Comtes de Champagne Residence, in among the thick stone walls and wood-beamed ceilings where two chandeliers hang. Thibaud IV is the host for the evening. Visitors will be taking a seat at his table. A long, white wooden table, custom made in a U shape and flanked with elegant tulle panels to create a bubble of intimacy. The scene is set for tasting the Brut Réserve and Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc. And for the audio experience, too. “It is the dawning of the 13th century, the era of knights, crusades and cathedrals…”
Tearing up the rulebook
“For the script-writing, we teamed up with Armelle, an actress with experience in TV, cinema and theatre,” explains Audrey Malacain, Taittinger’s Head of Experience. “She wrote a wonderful text for us which presents sequences from Thibaud’s life over the course of four banquets, from his birth right up to his return from the crusades, via the courtly love to which he was devoted. This was under the supervision of Reims historian Patrick Demouy.” A dozen actors lent their voices to the characters, including Armelle herself as the narrator. To enhance the story and give it a soundtrack (audible in both French and English), the House decided to tear up the rulebook by mixing the aesthetics. The Alla Francesca medieval music ensemble interprets several of Thibaud IV’s songs, akin to the trouvères and troubadours who were able to join the banquets. “But we didn’t want to be ‘stuck’ in the 18th century. That’s why we also brought in the composer Yuksek, whose more contemporary musical universe meant we could bridge the gap between then and now to establish a dialogue between the two eras.” Bells, voices, songs and electronic music – creator of radio fictions Cédric Aussir compiled this rich tapestry of sounds so that they flow pleasantly into the visitor’s ear, appealing to their imagination, sharpening their senses and putting them in the right mood to discover Taittinger champagnes.