Champagne house Taittinger could return to the hands of the Taittinger family after French bank Crédit Agricole entered into "advanced discussions" with the company's owner.

US real estate group Starwood Capital is holding talks with Crédit Agricole du Nord Est on the sale of Taittinger's Champagne assets, as well as vineyards in California and the Loire.

The bank is understood to have teamed up with Taittinger family members including Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, the firm's deputy managing director and grandson of the company's founder. Their bid trumped seven other offers, including one from India's UB Group, which has since dropped out of the running.

Starwood declined to reveal the size of the bid but said it had started talks with Crédit Agricole because of its "highly attractive financial offer and its sensitivity to other criteria". Starwood was understood to have been looking for at least EUR500m (US$643.6m) for the Champagne assets alone.

Taittinger union officials are today (30 May) meeting Crédit Agricole representatives to discuss the proposal. A source close to Starwood told just-drinks that the company expected the unions to approve the plans, with a decision expected early next week.

Starwood bought Taittinger - the world's sixth-largest Champagne producer - when it paid EUR2.9bn for its parent Groupe Taittinger and an associated business, Société du Louvre, last year.