Bond-premier in Stockholm and everybody is speaking about Bollinger! On the 30th of October the 24th James Bond movie had its premier worldwide. SPECTRE is the 14th Bond film to feature Bollinger as James Bond’s Champagne of choice, with the discerning secret agent this time deciding to drink the exclusive prestige cuvée Bollinger R.D. 2002. We sat up at tasting of Bollinger at The Champagnebar by Richard Juhlin in Stockholm that week.
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.
‘My name is Juhlin, Richard Juhlin.’
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.
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 ‘Disgorged May’15. 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.’
2004 BOLLINGER ‘LA GRANDE ANNÉE’ | 66PN 34CH | SBnr 7579 | 899 sek | RJpoints 93(94)
TASTING NOTE ‘Disgorged Sep’14. Bollinger makes the heaviest and richest of all the Champagnes. The first fermentation takes place as usual in oak barrels and the final blend contains wines from 16 different villages, all Grand Cru (88%) or Premier Cru (12%). Their wines are always a smoky and fragrant hazelnut complexity that is hard to beat. Since the year 1990 made vintage wines from Bollinger in a little fruitier more scented with peaches with slightly less pronounced smokiness and nuttiness. The 04 is super comfortable with a lovely balance and accessible creaminess of chocolate and nutty undertones already. It can surely be kept for a very long time in the cellar and despite its early charm.’
2002 BOLLINGER ‘LA GRANDE ANNÉE’ | disgorged July’12 | 60PN 40CH | SBnr 7579 | 849 sek | TASTINGNOTE ‘Disgorged Oct’10. Since the year 1990 made vintage wines from Bollinger in a little fruitier more persikodoftande style with slightly less pronounced smokiness and nuttiness. I was always more impressed initially by the previous style, but it feels like the differences even out over time. 2002 is very fruity and a little slippery at the moment, but I am convinced that the fruitiness will be low, and that we will see a deeper beauty over time.’ 93(95) RJ POINTS
2005 BOLLINGER ‘LA GRANDE ANNÉE ROSÉ’ | Aÿ | Champagne | France | 72PN 28CH | RJpoints 93(94)
TASTING NOTE ‘Disgorged Sep’14. 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.’
2002 BOLLINGER ‘R.D.’ | Aÿ | Champagne | France | 60PN 40CH | RJpoints 93(96)
TASTING NOTE ‘Disgorged Oct’14. 11 years sûr-lie. 23 crus, 71% grand cru & 29% 1er cru. Dosage 3 grams per litre. Since the year 1990 made vintage wines from Bollinger in a little fruitier more peach-scented style with slightly less pronounced smokiness and nuttiness. I was always more impressed initially by the previous style, but it feels like the differences even out over time. 2002 shows lovely shy notes of peaches and honey. It hasn’t developed it’s typical masses of RD-character yet. In the mouth this R.D. is typically oily and rich with notes of Champignon de Paris (!), Verzenay-dominated, stringent aroma of red apple peel. The taste is beautifully balance and harmonius. I love to drink R.D.s between 18 and 24 months after release. This is a Champagne that really benefits from being served in a Burgundy glass(!) As always tis is a Champagne for true gastronomy. Like the tartar of deer and oyster mayonnaise and lemon zest that we we’re served at the premiere-lunch in Sthlm. This is a grand R.D. in the making!
1999 BOLLINGER ‘R.D.’ magnum | Aÿ | Champagne | France | Bollinger | 60PN 40CH | aprox €200 RJpoints 93(94)
TASTING NOTE ‘Disgorged Aug’12. Some RD character can be discerned from the start. More depth and mushroom aroma and a metal-like and wood-saturated tone and less kind tropical fruit than the vintage version. Significantly better than Grande Année’.
1996 BOLLINGER ‘R.D.’ magnum | Aÿ | Champagne | France | Bollinger | 60PN 40CH | aprox €250 | RJpoints 94(96)
TASTING NOTE ‘Disgorged Oct’11. Such a rich and fruity wine that the RD-character didn’t bite from the beginning. Now very dark in style with aromas of tar, raw mushrooms and heavy powerful flavor. Although not as elegant as Krug, but lately heading that way. ‘
1988 BOLLINGER ‘R.D.’ magnum | Aÿ | Champagne | France | Bollinger | 75PN 25CH | aprox €850 | RJpoints 97(97)
TASTING NOTE ‘‘Disgorged Mar’13. Classic Bollinger style is evident here, with hazelnut, bread, mushrooms, and smoke. The wine, on the other hand, has hardly benefited from its late disgorging. This wine will be exciting to see when it reaches its peak. Beautifully delicious and nutty in a magnum. Just getting better and better each time I taste it.
2005 BOLLINGER ‘VEILLES VIGNES FRANCAISES’ | Aÿ | 100PN | SBnr 90327-01 | 5250 sek | RJpoints 97(98) TASTINGNOTE‘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. The first vintage as a pure Aÿ because the phylloxera attacked the unprotected parcelle in Bouzy. Sad in itself, but for the wine rather a profit. Even fewer bottles and this difficult little flat and excessively obese vintage ought to be a disappointment. The reality was different. The highly expressive and intense aroma is similar to the monumental ’96 at the same age and we’re dealing with a really great vintage of VVF. The Aÿ-aroma shines indeed clearer than usually and the fresh and clear acidity present along with a magnificent grand aromatic spectrum. While it offers so much already, a restrained overall dark-energy of power is ready to be unleashed. The only question mark is whether the decision to make the vintage of a wine without dosage can disrupt the storage potential when I see a couple of grams of sugar as necessary as a conserver to slow down the oxidation in the long run.’
2009 BOLLINGER ‘007 SPECTRE EDITION’ | Aÿ | 68PN 32CH | 1 400 sek | RJpoints 91(93)
TASTING NOTE ‘I love Bollinger and I love James Bond, but do think really that the wines are a bit too strong and gastronomic for this sporta gentleman of the screen. This limited edition is easy to drink more and more modern in style, and should therefore fit James better. In my opinion a little easier and more public-rounded champagne from a rapidly maturing year that really suits the style of the house a bit bad. So be it. It is good of course and the wine plays a on the sweet frucity side and pastry inspired theme with almond and apple pie as the clearest associations. Short and soft.’
25 champagne lovers | 12 champagnes | 6 vintages | 300 glasses | 1 sommelier
Photos by Raphaël Cameron