What do Ay, James Bond and I all have in common? Champagne of course, specifically Bollinger, and any Champagne that is good enough for James Bond is certainly good enough for me.
Founded in 1829 as Renaudin Bollinger, Bollinger is one of the last independent family Champagne House’s that began with a partnership formed between Athanase Hennequin de Villermont, Paul Renaudin and Jacques Bollinger. The result of which is a Champagne so unique in its powerful, sophisticated and complex style that it was awarded the prestigious Royal Warrant in 1884.
Since those early days, Bollinger became what it is today through the help of Scotswoman Elizabeth “Lily” Bollinger (nee Law de Lauriston-Boubers). After the death of her husband Jacques Bollinger in 1941 Madame Bollinger, forever the perfectionist and innovative business woman, expanded the House’s reputation and was the driving force behind the R.D. cuvee.
Nowadays, Bollinger, whose 164 hectare estate is made up almost exclusively of Grand and Premier Crus (making up 60% of the House’s requirements) still do some things the old fashioned way here. Grapes are picked by hand, there is an exclusive cooper for the House and every village is vinified separate to the others.
As I walked through the cellars at Bollinger I learnt that perhaps the most important secret as to why Bollinger is so unctuous; they are “giving time to time”.
Bollinger has a range of wines that they dedicate the utmost attention to, and when creating a blend with different vintages they take love and care to ensure that the Champagne is nurtured and balanced in the same way a chef adds herbs and seasoning to ensure a perfect sauce.
Luckily having great vineyards, and great quality grapes help, with the oldest vineyards in the Bollinger estate having escaped the phylloxera crisis at the end of the 19th century.
The result, a ‘Gentleman’s Champagne’ that is more masculine in nature due to the high proportion of Pinot Noir in the blends that were imported from Burgundy in the Middle Ages.
Having a chance to sample the wines on the Bollinger estate was a dream come true, the Special Cuvee is still a favourite of mine, and is the perfect accompaniment for all occasions.
While the Rosé, once frowned upon by Lily Bollinger due to its reputation of being the drink of choice in ‘Houses of Ill-repute’, has been brought into the fold and has received a makeover this year replicating a Bollinger bottle of the late 19th century. With voluptuous curves and a narrow neck regulating oxygen content the new bottle will allow the red fruit and spices to develop in strength and subtlety.
I was even lucky enough to sample the in-house Bollinger Pinot Noir whilst I was there. Whilst not a Champagne it is a red wine that is incredibly delicate and light, and a definite highlight. If you ever manage to find yourself a bottle on a menu. Do not hesitate to order it!