Claude Taittinger, who headed Taittinger Champagne for nearly five decades, died Jan. 3 at the age of 94. He was able to bring greatness to the Taittinger brand. He shaped the notoriety of Champagne in the aftermath of the 1960s, when the economy, sales and consumption of wines and spirits took on a new dimension. He was one of the pioneers of this new vision of Champagne, one of the first to bring this unique sparkler into the modern era of luxury.
FRANCE (Paris) – Claude Taittinger was one of the three sons of Pierre Taittinger, who founded the Champagne Domaine in 1932 on the basis of the Forest & Fourneaux winery, which had existed since 1734 – before that the Taittinger family had been wine merchants. Since then, the company has been based in Reims. Today, Taittinger is one of the few Champagne Domaines that are still managed by a family.
In 1949, Claude Taittinger was then 22 years old, he joined the company. After the untimely death of his brother François in 1960, Claude served as Taittinger’s managing director and eventually president from 1960 to 2005. In the late 1960s, he took on the additional role of chairman of the Taittinger family’s Société du Louvre group, which also included Concorde Hotels and Baccarat Crystal, and was also a member of the advisory board of the Bank of France.
In honor of his father, who died in 1965, Claude Taittinger founded the Prix culinaire international Pierre-Taittinger in 1967. Since then, “Le Taittinger” has celebrated the French culinary art and rewarded the talent of young chefs at the end of a highly selective international competition. Over the years, this competition has become a true grail for chefs from all over the world who are dedicated to tradition and creation.
Over the decades, Claude expanded the Champagne Domaine, increasing production from one million to 4.5 million bottles per year during his tenure. Claude Taittinger demonstrated overview and foresight right from the start by successively expanding the vineyards. He had around 350 hectares of vines planted as early as the 1960s and doubled these areas by the time he retired in 2005. Claude Taittinger also founded Domaine Carneros in 1987 in collaboration with the Kobrand Corporation to distribute Taittinger wines in the United States.
Sale – Buyback – Future
When Claude Taittinger retired in 2005, he sided with the majority of the 38 Taittinger heirs, many of whom were tired of paying high taxes each year, and decided to sell the Taittinger Group, including the family’s Champagne Domaine. But just one year later in 2006, Claude’s nephew Pierre-Emmanuel, with whom Claude had worked for many years, secured financial backing to take over Taittinger Champagne. It was a move that surprised the wine world and put the house back in the hands of a Taittinger family member.
Claude Taittinger knew from then on to have led the family business into good hands. With Vitalie Taittinger as successor of her father Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, the course for the future was recently set. The 40-year-old, who took over in January 2020, joined the family business shortly after it reacquired the Champagne Domaine in 2007 and has headed up marketing since 2015. “With her appointment at the top of the company, Taittinger renews the guarantee of family commitment,” the Taittinger family says.
Despite Taittinger’s secured future, the wine scene loses a stylish gentleman as well as a shrewd businessman who had been committed to the luxury champagne brand all his life. Claude Taittinger is survived by his wife Catherine, his daughters Brigitte, Virginie and Christine, 12 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.