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Bollinger, a class aside in the Champagne business could be a simple advertising slogan. As soon as we consider the details of the differences cultivated by the House, it asserts itself as a reality. However, when we examine the range of wines, this expression is absolute.
A fruit of the tricks of the earth and climate, making champagne will always remain a difficult art; the art of blending grape varieties, crus or vintages, to get the quintessential wine. In that sense, "Special Cuvée" from Bollinger is, without doubt, the highest expression of its know-how and style.
In favourable conditions the House of Bollinger also makes, with the grapes of the year, wines which have, on top of the style of the House, the character and personality of their respective vintages. This is the case with the "Grande Année" and with the Grande Années continuity of excellence in the "R.D.". The House of Aÿ, not sparing of differences, also offers two other unique wines in Champagne: "thecoteaux champenois Aÿ rouge" "la Côte aux Enfants" and the "Vieilles Vignes Françaises".
All these wines have an history which merits being told.
The denomination Special Cuvée was created in 1911. The idea came from William Folks, then partner of the illustrious London House of Mentzendorff. This great wine lover felt it was an insult to simply call this great wine "non vintage". The suggestion of naming it "Special Cuvée" was immediately approved by Monsieur Bollinger. A blend par excellence, the Special Cuvée is the purest expression of the Bollinger style; of its craftsmanship and its singular conception of what a champagne should be. It is, therefore, on this wine that the House of Bollinger shows how it is different from other Champagne Houses, asserts its qualitative policy and by which it asks to be judged.
The House of Bollinger only produces vintage champagnes in exceptional years, when the grapes have reached a perfect quality and maturity with a perfect balance between the acids and sugars. Hence the denomination "Grande Année" given to this champagne which, unlike the "Special Cuvée", is only produced from grapes of that particular harvest. The Bollinger Grande Année remains, however, a blended wine from crus and grape varieties. In this sense it too carries the expression of the House style. However, in this case, the style is also dependent on the characteristics of the given vintage. It is the best wine Bollinger can produce in an individual year by exposing its particular character.
With Bollinger, Rosé champagne is first and foremost a "Grande Année" wine. It is therefore only produced from a great vintage when grapes have reached a perfect maturity and an excellent balance between the acids and sugars. The Bollinger Grande Année remains, however, a blended wine from crus and grape varieties. In this sense, it too carries the expression of the House style. However, in this case, the style is also dependent on the characteristics of the particular great vintage. The Grande Année Rosé is the result of the blend between about ten barrels of Grande Année and some "coteaux champenois rouges "(still red wine from Champagne coming from the great village of Aÿ). This addition of red wine to the blend will give the wine the rosé colour as well as subtle fruit aromas, extra body and richness.
To be completely different requires remaining true to oneself and ones traditions… It is in this spirit that Bollinger has developed a unique champagne: "R.D." or "Recently Disgorged". The blend is the same as that of "Grande Année" and the R.D. uniqueness lies in its much longer ageing on the lees and - as its name implies - in its recent disgorging. First created in the early 1960's, R.D. is the outcome of research developed by the House of Bollinger on the ageing of champagne on its lees. Not only does the wine retain its freshness but, through the extra contact with the lees, develops more complexity and subtlety. Remaining for a minimum of eight years on its lees, the R.D. acquires a greater aromatic complexity and length. On the other hand, the recent disgorging - the date of disgorging is inscribed on the back label - gives the wine an exceptional freshness.
Absolutely unique in Champagne, Bollinger "Vieilles Vignes Françaises" is the living relic of what champagne was a century ago before phylloxera destroyed the vineyards of France. Mysteriously, in Aÿ and Bouzy, a few plots of ungrafted vines resisted the American louse. The Bollinger family decided to preserve these vineyards. The Vieilles Vignes Françaises are planted en foule (i.e. layered) and cultivated manually with traditional tools and according to ancient methods. These methods - which are costly and generate low yields - allow the grapes to reach a more complete maturity whilst maintaining a low pH (high aridity), characteristic of a great champagne. Composed of 100% Pinot Noir and only produced in vintage years, Bollinger Vieilles Vignes Françaises is always a huge and complete wine and is the expression of champagne as it was enjoyed last century.
Originally, Champagne was reputed for... its red wines. It is also said that it ousted the wines of Burgundy from the table of Henri IV. The most reknowned were those of Aÿ and indeed it was usual for all red wines from Champagne to be referred to as "Vin d'Aÿ". The red coteaux champenois (the denomination that describes still wines from Champagne) from Aÿ, "Côte aux Enfants", therefore constitutes a return to the origins of Champagne. It is only produced in exceptional years from a small plot, "La Côte aux Enfants", ideally located in the heart of the terroir of Aÿ and planted with Pinot Noir. It shows what could have been red wine from Champagne a few centuries ago at the time of their splendour.