French Champagne house Taittinger has acquired 69 hectares of farmland in Kent, with a view to producing English sparkling wine by the year 2021.
From 2017, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier vines will be planted across 40 hectares of the Stone Stile Farm near Canterbury and Faversham, as part of the multi-million pound launch of the Domaine Evremond variety.
The project received backing from distributors and wine company Hatch Mansfield, private investors, and friends of the family.
The first bottles are expected by 2021, with a projected total of 300,000 bottles per year.
The sparkling wine will aim to make use of the UK's temperate climate and will capitalise on the former apple farm land, which is said to have the ideal conditions or "terroir" to grow high quality vines. It is at a maximum of 80 metres above sea level, with chalk soil and south-facing slopes.
The Domaine takes its name from 17th century figure and Frenchman Charles de Saint-Evremond, the poet, epicurean and literary critic, who is said to have been the first true ambassador for Champagne, having fuelled its popularity in England during the court of Charles II (and was eventually buried in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey).
Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, Champagne Taittinger president, said: "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."
He added: "We have dreamt for a number of years of working with our dear friends in the UK to create a special Franco/British project. Built on the values of friendship, this venture will create something special to show our appreciation of the UK support for Champagne."
The Taittinger family already has historical connections with Kent, as former Mayor of Reims, Jean Taittinger, twinned the French city with Canterbury during his tenure from 1959-77.
Patrick McGrath MW (Master of Wine), managing director of Hatch Mansfield, commented: "We are delighted to be working with Champagne Taittinger on this project and we have a joint ambition to produce very high quality wines using our combined expertise. Our aim is not just to be an English sparkling winemaker, but also to be a significant supporter of the whole English wine industry."
Viticulture consultant Stephen Skelton MW also worked closely with the Domaine Evremond team to secure the plot, while the site will go on to be managed by Damien Le Sueur, general director at Champagne Taittinger.