Q&A;: Vitalie of Champagne Taittinger

Of all the thrones we’d love to inherit, that of a storied French Champagne house must be at the top of our list (perhaps tied only with a diamond dynasty or a worldwide chain of luxury beach hotels). Prepare to turn green: Vitalie Taittinger is not just the artistic director of her family’s eponymous Champagne brand. She also lives an idyllic life in the French countryside and possesses an overwhelming amount of charm and grace (in addition to being absolutely beautiful). The mother of two is quite serious about taking time to enjoy life’s pleasures, which, for her, include making some of the world’s best Champagne. By Gaia Guidi Filippi

Elizabeth Street: What sets your family’s Champagne apart?
Vitalie Taittinger: Champagne Taittinger is now the largest eponymous Champagne house. In Champagne, you can still find some family-run houses, but the owners don’t carry the same name that is on their bottle. For us, having our name on the bottle means we put our soul, passion, and values into each bottle of Taittinger.

ES: For the perfect dinner, tell us how to drink Champagne the Taittinger way.
VT: To start, enjoy Brut la Française with a puff pastry twist seasoned with salt—a classical pairing that I love. The Champagne has to be served chilled, about 50°F, and the twists served fresh out of the oven! It’s comfortable, sweet, and simple.

Then continue with a small salad of watercress, parmesan cheese, and poached pears. Dress it with olive oil, a squeeze of citrus, and cracked pepper and pair it with a glass of Prélude Grands Crus, served at 55°F. It’s a good combination of roundness, freshness, and acidity.

For the grand finale, serve the Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2004 (again at 55°F) with lobster that has been delicately cooked in light and sweet cream, as well as a simple risotto with parmesan cheese. It’s an indulgent, royal pairing!

ES: Why do we need to enjoy a glass regularly?
VT: You certainly need to enjoy a glass of Champagne regularly to remember, and never forget, that life is meant to be a pleasure! We are all 100-percent involved in our jobs these days, so in our private lives we must take time to enjoy the rhythm of life. Champagne loosens you up and lets who you really are shine through.

ES: What makes you love what you do?
VT: I’m proud to work with my brother and father to continue to build this beautiful family history. Secondly, I have the impression that we are on very good mission. When people come to visit Taittinger, they are looking for happiness. When we share a glass of Champagne with guests, they bring us a piece of their world—it’s like we are traveling through them. And when they leave us, they are always smiling. I think our work makes people happy, and what job could be better than that? And, in the end, I really love Champagne!

ES: What are the best things about raising your children in the countryside, as opposed to in a big city?
VT: We have more time! There is certainly less stress in a city like Reims than there is in Paris. We are close to everything and can get almost everywhere by walking—it gives one the sensation of freedom. Plus, I’m convinced that the more space children have, the better able they are to develop their capacity to be independent! They explore, have their own special spaces, and are always close to nature.

ES: If you weren’t spending your days creating Champagne Taittinger, what would you be doing?
VT: I would still be living in the countryside, and would create my own company from nothing—step by step, piece by piece, taking my time to build something beautiful.

ES: American moms spend a lot of time talking about how to balance work and home life. Do you think it’s different in France?
VT: I’m not sure that we are talking about it in France, but I assure you that we are thinking about it! It’s a challenge to be a woman with a career and children—you are always pulled in at least two directions. You have to find that balance between giving time and love to your children and performing your job. At the end of the day, if you don’t want to feel like a slave to either, you need to make time to preserve your private life.

ES: What do you do with your children when you are not working?
VT: I love to simply spend time with them. I’m not the kind of woman to organize a big plan with a lot of scheduled activities—I do what they want. We bake cakes, we play with the toys, I tell them ghost stories, I tickle them, we do their lessons, we play in the garden, or I just sit nearby and let them play by themselves. Sometimes we take the train or the metro to visit friends. I love this because they are very curious and always ask funny questions! I think I’m like most mothers—I make the most of my time with my children.