The latest from Champagne Bollinger
I’ve been tasting some sparkling wines and cheaper Champagnes recently, all in the course of a day’s work mind you, and been disappointed at some of the Champagne offerings. These are wines that I hear people raving about as great value for money, usually imported by the retailers that sell them. But I wonder if people aren’t deceiving themselves. There are plenty of fizz-heads out there who have swallowed the Kool-Aid and believe that any wine with the name Champagne on the label is great.
I beg to disagree, and just what a gulf there is between the serious Champagne producers and the hoy polloi comes home with a thud whenever I taste Bollinger.
Bollinger’s man about town (make that the world), Guy de Rivoire, was dusting off the new 2005 vintage. That’s La Grande Année 2005 (tasting) to you. It will set you back a cool $200, but that, I’m afraid, is the difference between disappointingly young, sweet, boring Champagne and the real stuff. It’s cold, hard reality. Sorry, but you just can’t get $200 quality for $50, even if it’s a direct import, or a ‘grey market’ parallel import.
The ‘05 is a beautiful wine. Such finesse; such complexity. De Rivoire was also showing off the new 2005 La Grande Année Rosé (tasting), together with the non-vintage Rosé (tasting) and the 2012 Côte Aux Enfants (tasting), the still red pinot noir wine from Aÿ. The ’12 is better than any that I can recall tasting in the past: light-bodied but tremendously complex and well balanced with no excess of acidity.
I asked Guy what was new chez Bollinger, and he replied that the house had recently bought 1.5 hectares of vines in the Montagne de Reims village of Verzy. He wouldn’t say what Bollinger paid for it, but he did say the minimum price for a hectare of grand cru Champagne vines today is 1.5 million Euros.
The message is that Bollinger owns or controls 60% of its own grape supply, while the average for Champagne houses is only 10%. Controlling the viticulture is of course a key factor in quality.