Acquired by Pierre-Charles Taittinger in the 1930s, Château de la Marquetterie shares a long-standing history with champagne. Over the centuries, the earth here has been trodden by strong characters who have shaped the soul of the place, making La Marquetterie a site of symbolism for the Taittinger family.

They have been somewhat forgotten today. But Jacques Cazotte, alive during the dying embers of the France’s Ancien Régime, was one of the most enigmatic figures of his time in a similar way to Restif de La Bretonne. This ‘inventor’ of fantasy literature was also one of the former owners of the Pierry-based Château de la Marquetterie from 1760 to the Revolution.

Jacques Cazotte, portrait by Jean-Baptiste Perronneau

He was known to host lavish parties there during harvest time, attended by his friends Voltaire and Chénier. In 1792 the author of ‘Le Diable Amoureux’ was guillotined. The Château de la Marquetterie is a manor house, originally built in 1734 for a wealthy family of drapers from Reims. It was the nephew of Ange-Jacques Gabriel – the First Architect to the King – who managed the construction site and afforded the building all of its French Classicism characteristics in line with the prevailing architectural style of the time.

Pierre-Charles Taittinger’s first love
The other milestone in the history of La Marquetterie takes us straight to the heart of the First World War; all the way back to September 1915, when General Édouard de Castelnau set up his headquarters there during the First Battle of the Marne. General Joffre was not yet a sergeant, but he was stationed there. A young cavalry officer at the time, Pierre-Charles Taittinger was tasked with a liaison mission that sent him to the headquarters. It was love at first sight as he stood in front of the building; an image that would remain etched in his memory forever. He even went so far as to acquire it 20 years later alongside his brother-in-law, Paul Evêque. Château de la Marquetterie thus became a place of great symbolism in the history of the Taittinger family. It is also said that La Marquetterie is the original birthplace of the Taittinger family champagne.

General de Castelnau and General Joffre at the Domaine de la Marquetterie, during the Battle of the Marne, 1914

On Brother Oudart’s land
Jacques Cazotte and Pierre-Charles Taittinger are the two leading characters in the story of Château de la Marquetterie, but there is also a third person whose background is closely linked to this terroir: the lay brother Jean Oudart, a monk born in Dormans who could have become a wine-grower in the footsteps of his ancestors had he not chosen the cloth of the clergy instead. Just after the turn of the 18th century, before the château was built, his monastery sent him to Pierry to support the local congregation with making optimal use of its vines. It wasn’t long before his fine sparkling wine became the toast of the town, with the terroir rivalling the quality of both Hautvilliers and the successors to Dom Pérignon.

Brother Oudart had a talent for making trade deals, and through the exportation of his product to Paris, bottles of Pierry wine were served on the tables of some of the most powerful figures of the time, even in America. The drapers from Reims purchased part of this land and the adjoining vineyards from the Benedictine monks in order to set up their estate. Like the owners that followed them, they grew the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes which Pierry wine is still renowned for to this day. Over 300 years after Brother Oudart’s efforts to promote his wine, Maison Taittinger continues to distribute a highly reputed cuvee from this terroir: the Folies de la Marquetterie. This was Pierre-Charles Taittinger’s very first champagne. It remains an important symbol for Maison Taittinger today.

Text : Cyrille Jouanno