“I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad.
Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone
When I have company I consider it obligatory.
I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am
Otherwise I never touch it… unless I’m thirsty.”
The true meaning of these famous words, spoken by Lily Bollinger, were revealed a couple of weeks ago, as the team at Hedonism Wines treated us to a marvellous tasting of Bollinger wines. We were lucky enough to try out the full works, including the much-hyped 2002 RD and the rare still pinot noir they produce: La Cote Aux Enfants.
From the get go, the winemaker introduced Bollinger’s ‘5 stylistic pillars’
- The vineyard: unusually, Bollinger own the majority of its vineyards, giving them control over quality and consistency.
- Pinot noir: 60% of Bollinger’s vineyards are pinot, as reflected by the characteristic notes of the final wine
- Oak Barrel ageing
- Keeping old reserve wines in magnums rather than huge stainless steel vats
- Time: Bollinger ages its wines for much longer than than the average across the region, resulting in a rich, harmonious style.
Bollinger Special Cuvee NV
02 and 06 were in this blend, giving it plenty of weight for a non-vintage champagne. Sourdough bread and honey came through strongly on the nose. Quite rich and complex on the palate with medium acidity and some figgy sweetness. Alcohol was not noticeable. This was the palest wine of all and lost its fine mousse after 30 minutes or so. 90
Bollinger Rose NV
Surprisingly this was slightly more closed to begin with with some tannic structure. In terms of flavour, doughy characteristics still came through but there was an obvious expression of mint that several of us independently picked up, along with some spicy characteristics. Not as great an expression of Bollinger’s principles of champagne-making. 87
Bollinger La Grand Annee 2007
Lower dosage now at 7g. Significantly darker than the special cuvee. The complexity on this wine was remarkable, and we kept tasting the flavour for long after each sip. A round, harmonious almond characteristic was present, along with some tropical notes as found in specific examples of Montrachet wines. The wine coated the mouth and was really enjoyable. 92
Bollinger La Grand Annee Rose 2005
This wine really split the crowd. Most of those who enjoyed the NV rose didn’t enjoy this one, and vice versa. For me, it was a winner. Salmon pink in the glass, with aromatics that included thyme, hazelnut and ripe tomato. Pinot noir was evident. Long, but not as fresh as I would have hoped for. Smokiness and umami covers the mouth. Again, very long. 91
Bollinger RD 2002
This is perhaps the most famous of all long lees-aged wines. Dosage has been lowered again to 3g. The smile on the winemaker’s face said it all: this is a ridiculous champagne. More golden than gold. Huge balance and length. Complexity hitting all the major flavour types: fruit, spice, herbs, earth, wood, flowers, nuts etc etc. A beautiful champagne that Bollinger is justly proud of. 95
Bollinger la cote Aux Enfants Rouge 2012
This still pinot noir is a rarity and it’s sublime. Only 3000 bottles were produced, and the care and quality shines through: relatively deep colour, strong red berries, fresh acidity, eucalyptus, mint and rose petals. Smelly manure notes (which I love) and some tannic structure. 91
Bollinger is a top notch champagne house that, despite its fame, is much smaller than the typical supermarket champagne houses such as Moet. They are the epitome of British champagne (the UK is a huge market for them), and all their wines are superb. I’ll remember these wines for their richness and balance.