4.30 Monday morning and we arrived for lunch in Aÿ at long time favorite Champagne Bollinger. This was the start of The VIP trip oct’15!
RICHARD JUHLIN ON BOLLINGER Joseph Bollinger was the German from Würtemberg who founded this ancient house in 1829. The French called him simply ‘Jacques.’ The firm’s large estates in the best Pinot villages were bought by his sons Georges and Joseph, and in 1918 it was time for the next Jacques to take over the property. He became the mayor of Aÿ, but died during the German occupation at the age of forty-seven. The most colorful person in the history of the house is his widow, Lily Bollinger, who kept a watchful eye on every bunch of grapes by cycling through the vineyards regularly. Her rigorous demands for quality still run through the house to this day.
Now Bollinger is run by Jérôme Philipon, who control over 144 hectares, providing 70 percent of the grape supply. The winemaker today is Gilles Descôtes. Besides the house’s exceptional vineyards, they also use very expensive vinification methods. All the vintage wines are fermented in small, aged oak barrels and are never filtered. Malolactic fermentation – which would probably take place very late in the process—is not encouraged either. The reserve wines are stored at low pressure in magnums.
Bollinger make the heaviest and most full-bodied champagnes of any house, and their wines always have a smoky and hazelnut-y complexity that is very hard to beat. The vintage wines are among the very best, but the question is whether the rare and fantastic Vieilles Vignes Françaises, made with grapes from non-grafted Pinot vines, can reach even greater heights. All wines highly recomended.
- Bolinger only produces their own champagne. No wines are bought as ‘vins sûr lattes’.
- A large ownership of vineyards, 60 percent, which will garanteea consistent house style.
- 325 crus, which 17 are grand crus & 41premier crus.
- Pinot Noir is the base in all Bollingers Champagnes.
- Bollinger only uses ’la cuvée’.
- First fermentation only in oak barrels.
- Réserveviner matures in magnums under natural corks.
- Long maturation sûr-lie.
- Only four winemakers during the last 60 years.
- Low dosage. 7-9 grams for Spécial Cuvée & La Grande Année & Vieilles Vignes Françaises, 3-4 grams for R.D.
Salade de Sot-ly-laisse, moelleux d’artichaut au Xerèz
Cuisse de pintade farci aux fruit secs, légumes glacés au miel crème de pleurots
Mesclun de salade, duo de Comtés, millefeuille de tuiles dentelles framboise et coulis de fraises
mv BOLLINGER ‘ROSÉ’ | Aÿ | Champagne | France | 70PN 10PM 20CH | RJpoints 79(84)
TASTING NOTE ‘They have spiced the white standard champagne with a little delicious red wine from the most famous locality at Aÿ. The result is a modern and charmingly easy-to-drink, elegant rosé that can at first glance be mistaken for rosé wines from less personal houses. When aired, Bollinger’s famous nutty and apple-influenced complexity appears, reminding one that this is not any old nightclub bubbly but rather an excellent gastronomic wine.’
mv BOLLINGER ‘SPÉCIAL CUVÉE’ | Aÿ | Champagne | France | 60PN 15PM 25CH | RJpoints 81(89)
TASTING NOTE ‘Yet again, one of my absolute favorites among nonvintage Champagnes. Since the beginning of the 1990s the wine has only been four years old when it enters the market and is vinified in steel vats. Even so, it’s fascinating to see how much 12 percent old reserve wines, vinified in oak barrels and stored in magnums, do to lift the product. The oakish, smoky, and deep Bollinger style develops after a couple of years in the bottle.’
2005 BOLLINGER ‘LA GRANDE ANNÉE’ | Aÿ | Champagne | France | 70PN 30CH | RJpoints 94(95)
TASTING NOTE ‘Aÿ and Verzenay are in full control. I love when Bollinger leaves the Pinot Noir in the driving seat like this. The sweet, flirty vintage is never really my cup of tea. But here its turned into an advantage. The classic hazelnuttyness becomes Sicilian pistachio and nougat, the dark cocoa notes turnes into pure heavenly milk chocolate. Despite this obvious Nirvana of pleasure there is a great seriousity and sleeping animalistic power- Personaly I am so impressed that I consider the wine fully mature from the release. A great Bollinger vintage indeed.’
2002 BOLLINGER ‘R.D.’ | Aÿ | Champagne | France | 60PN 40CH | RJpoints 93(95)
TASTING NOTE ‘Beautiful sophistication and youthful beauty. While there is a certain knot device and distinct but faint RD tones thowards mushroom, truffle and mineral saltiness. Blooming in the glass and not unlike a young RD 1975, so at some point will this wine breathe sweetest chocolate and nut symphony. Last incredibly tied and grassy. How can disgorging affect so individual in the bottles?’
1995 BOLLINGER ‘R.D.’ | Aÿ | Champagne | France | 61PN 39CH | RJpoints 93(95)
2005 BOLLINGER ‘LA GRANDE ANNÉE ROSÉ’ | Aÿ | Champagne | France | 72PN 28CH | RJpoints 93(94)
TASTING NOTE ‘Aÿ and Verzenay also confide the note in the pink version. I love when Bollinger let the Pinot Noir be so heavily dominant. Also here, we are dealing with a great vintage for the traditional boutique house in Ay. The scent is perhaps a bit more closed than it is in the white twin, but on the other hand, seasoned with new seductive elements reminiscent of Marie Antoinette. A puff box note and dried rose petals romanticize risqué over the classic nutty depth. The length and the structural grandeur is extremely impressive.’
15 champagne lovers | 6 champagnes | 4 vintages | 90 glasses | 5 dishes