Bolly darling

Bollinger RD spends a total of 13 years on lees in bottle before being disgorged. (Photo: Twitter @Bollinger_Int)

To celebrate the release of 2004 Bollinger RD Champagne the company’s Global Director, Guy de Rivoire, presented the five Bollinger champagnes currently available in New Zealand during lunch at O’Connell St Bistro & Bar.

We didn’t quite get a roll of drums when the RD was served, but there was an audible hush in the room as it was being poured.

RD stands for récemment dégorgé (“recently disgorged”), a reminder that Bollinger RD is Bollinger Grand Année (vintage) Champagne that has spent a further eight years on its lees under cork (not crown seal). Grand Année has already spent five years on its yeasty sediment which means that Bollinger RD spends a total of 13 years on lees in bottle before being disgorged. It’s probably unseemly to raise this but Bollinger RD has a retail price of NZD $389 while Bollinger Grand Année costs NZD $175. That represents a premium of NZD $27.75 per year for the eight extra years that Bollinger RD spent in the cellar.

Guy de Rivoire began by telling us that there had been a slight fall in global Champagne sales thanks to the fact that terrorism had reduced the number of people visiting France and Brexit had dropped sales to their largest market, the UK. “Even Bollinger sales had fallen,” he said, with a worried look on his face.

To cheer us up after that news we were given a glass of NV Bollinger Special Cuvée (NZD $90). The wine certainly put a smile on my face. It was terrific. Roasted apple, brioche and nutty flavours were seamlessly integrated into a wine of incredible purity and balance. It solved my problem of what to serve to friends and family on Christmas day.

The 2005 Bollinger Grand Année Rosé was a rather different wine – not better or worse, but different. A bigger, weightier and more complex champagne altogether, it is a wine to savour and meditate upon. Serious champagne with cellaring potential. (NZD $335)

Next came 2007 Bollinger Grand Année. This pinot noir-dominant wine has similar power, weight and complexity to its sibling 2005 Bollinger Grand Année Rosé. (NZD $175)

We didn’t quite get a roll of drums when the RD was served, but there was an audible hush in the room as it was being poured. Some years ago I tasted a vertical of every vintage of Bollinger RD back to 1953 and have been a card-carrying member of the Bollinger fan club ever since. Perhaps I was expecting too much but the 2004 Bollinger RD (NZD $389), though remarkably fresh for its years, had a slight milky character that restrained my enthusiasm. I wondered if a different bottle might have tasted better but didn’t pursue it because the other guests seemed perfectly satisfied.

We finished with NV Bollinger Rosé that was delicious despite not making a great match with the accompanying dessert. Delicate fruit helped emphasise the wine’s yeast autolysis character. (NZD $130)

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