“I drink my Champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I am 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 am thirsty”.
Not James Bond but a quote in fact from Madame Jacques Bollinger, fondly known in her family as Aunt Lily. She was head of the famous Champagne house from 1941 until her death in 1977. What a great maxim by which to live life.
From the earliest James Bond novel (in 1956) and films (1976) the ultimate spy and debonair man about time have been seen drinking champagne, not least Bollinger Champagne. What is it though that makes this Champagne stand out from the rest.
Where Is Bollinger Champagne Made?
Set in the geographical heart of Champagne at Aÿ, the House of Bollinger is a short drive from the well-known town of Epernay. The unimposing Bollinger house is on Rue Jules Loubet in the center of town; extravagance at the hands of Bollinger is reserved for the vineyards, the grapes, and the winemaking.
Head of Bollinger is Ghislain de Montgolfier, great, great-grandson of the founder. Ghislain is a playful, charming man but behind this lies a man with a passion for his wine. The earnestness to get the Bollinger message across is without the slightest arrogance from one in such a revered position. Bollinger is the last true family-owned houses in Champagne.
Bollinger keeps many traditional methods in their winemaking but have also invested huge sums of money in technology. “We use and adapt technology to make it work for us,” says Stephen,“ It is important that any use of technology does not take away any of the characters that make Bollinger unique.”
The wine is fermented in oak casks and a little in stainless steel. The wood is not to give flavor to the wine, it is to keep control of the oxidation. Control is very important to Bollinger. It is with control, that year after year, the house produces a wine that is consistent in style, flavor, and quality.
The family has been making wine since 1829 and it is not surprising the UK is still their largest export market; after all the Queen, Churchill and James Bond can’t all be wrong.
‘The British respond well the consistency of Bollinger Special Cuvée. The year on the bottle is not important, it is the fact they can open any bottle and always receive the same quality wine,” Stephen tells me.
But what is it that warrants the cost of Bollinger Special Cuvée–selling around £50 or a Grand Année-vintage Champagne about £55. Again, Stephen Leroux Marketing Director at Champagne Bollinger. “There is absolutely nothing wrong with a bottle at £12.99,” he told me “a young couple with a family and not much money, who want to drink Champagne for a celebration, it is perfect.”
- This is the most accomplished expression of the Bollinger style. The primary fermentation takes place in small stainless steel tanks or oak casks.
- In order to preserve consistency, 5 – 10% of reserve wines kept for five to ten years in magnums stopped with cork go into the composition of the blend.
- The wine is aged in the cellar for a minimum of three years.
- La Grand Année
- In exceptional years, Bollinger, ever faithful to the winemaking tradition produces only one vintage blend - La Grande Année, a prestige cuvee.
- The first fermentation takes place only in oak casks.
- La Grande Année ages a minimum of five years and often more than six in the cellar, under cork. R.D (recently disgorged)
- Mme Bollinger first proposed this wine in 1961.
- R.D. Is a Grand Année that has aged for a longer period: a minimum of eight and up to twenty or twenty-five years.
- By nature, the R.D. boasts a nearly unlimited capacity for conservation.
- La Grande Année Rosé
- As its name suggests this is a pink wine. It is made by adding red wine from a specific plot- La Côte aux Enfants–in the heart of the Aÿ terroir.