Bollinger – a quick snapshot of the range
|100 years of Bollinger Special Cuvée|
I like Bollinger.
I like their uncompromised winemaking approach and I like their understated marketing. No flashy Moët-esque packaging either, just class.
In fact, the only impediment to me ‘loving’ Bollinger is that the NV (Special Cuvée) has been a slightly variable beast at times, largely due to some very questionable parallel imports that popped up recently (which were in very poor condition. Caveat emptor for anyone buying a bottle not wearing the official ‘imported by Fine Wine Partners’ back label) and made buying Bollinger outside of a bottleshop something of a lottery.
I believe that the parallel supply has dried up now though and, as you can see below, the ‘official’ stock is tip-top stuff.
The following Bollinger wines then were tasted at a fabulous sit down masterclass earlier in the year, put on to celebrate 100 years since the naming of the Bollinger Special Cuvée. Not a bad milestone that one….
Notes from the winery are in italics.
Bollinger Special Cuvée NV (Champagne, France) 12.5% RRP $110
Based on Pinot Noir (60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Meunier) with approximately 80% of the grapes sourced from premier or grand cru vineyards. It spends three years on lees with 20-35% fermented in barrel, the rest in stainless steel. 5-10% reserve wine (from magnum) is included in the blend, with the reserve wines up to 15yrs old.
Probably the best looking Special Cuvée I’ve seen in some time. Fresh, lively and really quite impressive. Clear colour, fine bead and lifted with a hint of oak richness it looked very Bollinger (in a good way). Palate is dry, pure and lean but with nice layers of creamy yeast, oak and fruit. Complete NV and very drinkable. 17.5/91
|Bollinger Coteaux Champenois
A still Bollinger oddity.
Bollinger Coteaux Champenois La Côte aux Enfants 2002 (Champagne, France) RRP $220
The only still wine in the Bollinger range, this has been made for for 100 years+. Produced from a single, south facing 1 hectare grand cru vineyard near the heart of Aÿ. Fermented cold for 10-12 days and then aged in 3-5yr old 205 litre oak barrels for 2yrs. A portion of this is blended with the Grande Année white to produce the Grande Année Rosé. Picked at 12 baume, with 7g/l acidity. Interestingly, it’s still cropped at 8 tonnes hectare, which is fine for Champagne but would make Burgundians weep (with envy. A $220 wine cropped at 8 tonnes a hectare? Wow). Just 4,300 bottles produced.
This was served cold which was a plain puzzling move, for it’s not exactly fruit sweet. As it warmed up the dense, yet restrained nose showed little more than ferrous, under-ripe Pinot Noir. The palate is quite a surprise then, with the sharp and metallic edges softened thanks to bottle age and some rather stylish if metallic fruit. Whilst ultimately a slightly hard, ungenerous and aggressively tannic wine, there is some elegant, non-fruit winey characters in there to keep it drinkable. 16.8/89
Bollinger Rosé NV (Champagne, France) RRP $170
62% Pinot Noir, 24% Chardonnay, 14% Pinot Meunier. 85% premier and grand cru fruit with 5% still Pinot Noir from Cote d’Ay and Verzenay. 8.5g/L dosage. Served from magnum.
A very pretty smelling wine this one, with sweet sherbety, strawberry and talc on the nose. Lovely bead too, very nice. The palate is really quite tart in comparison, a little short, tight and sweet, all front, then a hole and then dry through the finish. Disjointed. It’s odd to say this, but I think that more bottle age is needed to try and bring everything together (or at least this bottle). 16.5/88+
Bollinger La Grande Année 2000 (Champagne, France) RRP $250
16 Crus used in this blend, 76% grand, 24% premier cru. 63% Pinot Noir, 37% Chardonnay. 100% barrel fermentation. 7-9g/L dosage. Tricky year this one according to Bollinger winemaker Stephen Leroux, with 20% of Champagne lost to botrytis. Incidentally he also mentioned that 2001 was an ‘ordinary’ Champagne year and that up to 35% of the 2010 crop was lost to Botrytis.
Golden yellow colour. Very mealy, rich and full nose on this one, with a real biscuity, smoky yeast and oak fullness to it. Perhaps a fraction forward and mature but also in the prime of it’s life. Delicious. Palate too is full and golden, rich and just teetering on the edge of being brassy, the richness of bottle age and the oak ferment giving sweetness, contrasting against the acid backbone. Very nice wine for immediate drinking pleasure. 18.2/93
Bollinger La Grande Année Rosé 1999 (Champagne, France) RRP $320
17 villages used with 82% grand, 18% premier cru vineyards. 65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay. 100% barrel ferment. Cellared in magnum under natural cork. A blend of Grande Année sparkling with 7-8% La Côte aux Enfants still wine. 7-9g/L dosage. This vintage is apparently comparable with 1970 and 1983.
Lovely salmon orange colour. Carries that same rich and biscuity nose like the 2000 ‘white’ does. Again a lovely fine bead. Rich palate contrasts with the drying tannic heaviness of the base red wine making for a back palate that is stripped a little of it’s sexy generosity. Still, you’d have to argue that this should be a stunning wine with another decade of bottle age, particularly given how structurally sound it is. Hold! 17.3/90+
Bollinger R.D. 1997 (Champagne, France) RRP $395
Essentially the 1997 La Grande Année held back on its lees (in magnum) for at least 8 years, whilst this particular bottle was disgorged in July 2010. 3-4g/L dosage. 1997 was an inclement vintage that eventually ended dry and hot. Served from magnum.
|1988 Bollinger R.D
Would love to see a fresh bottle of this
Wow. Stunning nose. Slightly cheesy, prominent autolysis yeast richness, with a hint of almost floral wildness. A hint of caramel and butterscotch too. Sexy stuff, proper Champagne indeed. Massively concentrated and powerful palate fits the nose perfectly, with a finish that is clean and quite pure. Full, powerful and chunky, with a quite warm finish. Surprisingly sprightly acidity too. Such length! I want to take this home and drink it all night long. Superb wine. Lovely Champagne this. 18.6/94
Bollinger R.D. 1988 (Champagne, France) RRP $?
17 crus with 66% grand and 34% premier cru vineyards. 72% Pinot Noir, 28% Chardonnay. pH 2.97. Disgorged circa 1998 and has spent the last 13yrs in the cellar of Paul Boothy of Fine Wine Partners. Served from magnum.
Sparse but fine bead, this looks more like a still wine than a Champagne. Flat, somewhat caramelised nose is just a bit decayed and broad, aldehydic wafts. Palate is surprisingly lean if mushroomy at the edges, with still very firm acidity. It’s obviously on the decline but still complex and layered. Would have been a stunner a few years back. Still plenty of interest here. 17.7/92