This summer, Maison Taittinger is opening its doors! Completely redesigned for a better experience, you will discover the new face of its historic site on the hill of Saint-Nicaise in Reims. The true beating heart of the Maison’s activities, Saint-Nicaise is THE place to discover, visit and taste the Taittinger universe.

To support this reopening, we tell you here, in several episodes, its history and what connects it to the Taittinger family.

Saint-Nicaise, the beating heart of the Taittinger family

It is the location which has seen the Maison Taittinger grow to become one of the biggest names in the world of champagne. The walls of Saint-Nicaise, the historical seat of the brand situated in the city of Reims (Marne department, France), still retain the memory of the great Taittinger moments, of the past, the present and those to come. 

At the base of this story is this chalky outcrop, situated to the south-east of the city of Reims, the Saint-Nicaise hill. In the XIIIth century, upon the death of the man who would become Saint Nicaise, the benedictine monks erected an abbey church in his memory. 

Sold off as national property during the French Revolution, transformed into a stone quarry, it would come to house several small Champagne houses. This is Saint-Nicaise, rebuilt in 1920 by the champagne house Champion, then occupied by the Maison Binet, which was subsequently bought by the Taittinger family. 

Pierre Taittinger
Pierre Taittinger

This proved to be a perfect site, with its ancient chalk galleries dating from the IVth century, excavated by hand to supply the city with building stone. A superb showcase for champagne, and humidity conditions that are perfectly suited to its preservation. 

The founder of the Maison Taittinger (1932), Pierre Taittinger, expanded his venture after the war, with François at his side, to whom he handed the reins in 1945. His two other sons likewise play a key role in the family business. While Jean worked to progressively grow the vineyard – Taittinger was then one of the few houses to own its own estate–, Claude was in charge of the development of a strategic market: the United States. 

When, under the leadership of François, the Taittinger family acquired the Saint-Nicaise site, it found in the former abbaye of Saint-Nicaise the place it had sought to develop further.

Claude Taittinger took up the reins of the family enterprise following the accidental death of François Taittinger in 1960, while Jean Taittinger dedicated his time to his political career, which had begun several years earlier. 

The Maison Taittinger began to gain importance within the small world of the great Champagne houses. 140 hectares of vines were planted, the production took the family name, and Chardonnay – a grape variety which was still rarely worked with at the time – gains popularity in the vats for delivering fine, light and elegant champagnes. At the same time, what may be considered to be the first advertising campaigns for champagne were rolled out. Some of them have achieved cult status such as the 80s poster by Patrick Arlet “L’instant Taittinger” (“The Taittinger Moment”) which shows in the foreground a champagne flute behind which there is an extraordinarily elegant woman in a black sheath dress, evoking the beauty of Grace Kelly. 

In 1967, the Taittinger Culinary Prize was created, which every year rewards the talent of young chefs around the world, and in 1983 the Taittinger Collection was established, for which contemporary artists are invited to display their work on special-edition bottles. 

In 2005, the Taittinger family sold the Champagne house to an American investment fund, Starwood Capital Group. But the strategy adopted by the new owners was not the right one, it didn’t stand the test of time and it was short lived. A year and a half after this sale, on 31st May 2006, Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, the nephew of Claude and son of Jean Taittinger, who was opposed to the sale from the outset, managed to buy back the Maison Taittinger with the help of the Crédit Agricole Nord-Est bank. He would rise to the challenge of the business’ recovery.

Vitalie Taittinger became president of the Champagne house Taittinger succeeding her father, at the start of 2020. She had worked in the business for twelve years where she had most recently served as marketing and communication director. Her brother, Clovis, very involved in the development of the brand internationally, became General Manager, Marketing & Communication Director. The business thus became a family business once again. 

The love story which began with Pierre Taittinger for the Champagne region, his vineyard and his exceptional wines lives on more than ever in the same family spirit which has characterized the Maison Taittinger for almost 100 years.

Text : Cyrille Jouanno
Cover image : Maison Taittinger headquarters on Saint-Nicaise hill © Michel Jolyot