Vitalie was born in Reims, she's the great-granddaughter of Champagne Taittinger's founder Pierre Taittinger and now she is the President of the champagne house. Two years ago, she took over from her father, Pierre-Emmanuel. When I first met the young woman a few years ago, I asked myself if it's a gift or a burden to be born into one of the world's most famous champagne families, if it's freedom or pressure.
Clovis is Vitalie's brother, he's the company's Managing Director. When it came to the decision who of the two children would follow into their father's footsteps, the father specifically didn't want to be part of the final decision making process. Instead, for a whole year, the entire team, including the two siblings, pondered on what would be best for the company. For them it was neither about ego nor about clever career moves. It was simply about finding a solution that would be best for Champagne Taittinger; that would be best to keep a tradition alive and thriving. This story says so much about a family and about a region and its mystified product. It says so much about what champagne is about.
The Champagne region is a tiny cosmos built on history, values, tradition, and trust. It goes beyond family although the families that founded the big houses and cultivated champagne over hundreds of years are at the core of this cosmos. It's important to understand that all the champagne houses on their own can't cover the demand of grapes for their production just by using the produce from their own vineyards. It's just not enough. They depend on a large network of small independent growers in the region. There are contracts yet if the growers don't want to cooperate with a champagne house, the champagne house won't survive. They both depend on each other, which is fruitful and only works when their cooperation is built on trust, respect, and the same values. Land is precious and limited - and a UNESCO world heritage since 2015. It's one of the most expensive in the wine world. € 1 million per acre, only topped by Bordeaux's and Burgundy's top appellations.
When Taittinger was sold by the extended family in 2005 - a step Vitalie's father didn't agree with - it only took him a year to have the support from a local bank and the backup from the growers to buy the company back and be assured that he would manage to keep producing outstanding champagne. So when Vitalie joined the company in 2007 quite spontaneously, after studying art and establishing a life independent of Taittinger, she was aware of the responsibility given into her hands but also about the chance she got to keep the story of her family's champagne alive so that one day she could pass it on to the next generation.
For this podcast episode, Vitalie shared a recipe with me that's both cozy and sumptuous. Squash Soup with Chestnut Purée and Scallop Carpaccio with Spinach Pesto and Caviar - easy to prepare in advance and perfect for a New Year's Eve dinner! You can find all the blog posts about the podcast episodes including my guests' recipes on meikepeters.com under 'Meet in Your Kitchen'.