The Bollinger Non-Vintages - A Toast to Celebrating Summer
I recently had the chance to taste through these two wines thoughtfully, watching them evolve for several hours after opening. The two tenants of Bollinger's style were clearly present from start to finish: the attractive oxidation from the oak barrel aging of at least half of the base wines (all vintage and reserve wines are made exclusively using oak barrels from a range of ages) and the house's signature power supplied by a majority of Pinot Noir in the two blends.
These are wines that are undeniably delicious and decadently complex when served chilled, but they become ever more interesting as they grow gradually warmer. These slightly elevated temperatures allow the wines to show off their blending diversity, which is intended to give these non-vintage cuvées a sameness over the years. Though the cellar masters are keenly astute at doing their jobs to make a consistent style, there is no question that the delightfulness of the various vintages and types of aged wines (including a selection of base wines aged in magnums with a light prise de mousse that gives them just 1.5 bar of pressure) in every Bollinger bottling can still be teased out by spending time with the bottle rather than just drinking a glass.
Summer is the perfect time to stop and smell the roses - or rather, rosé Champagne. Because everyone else is just drinking rosé. Here’s to celebrating summer with a bottle of Bollinger bubbly, savored down to the last drop.
Bollinger NV Champagne Rosé
Bollinger's non-vintage rosé is a relative newcomer - first released in 2008 - to this esteemed and historic house's portfolio. Just as the Grande Année Rosé Champagne is effectively a blend of red wine into the Grande Année base, so is the non-vintage rosé a blend created off the base of the NV Cuvée Spécial. Whereas the Grande Année Rosé red wine comes from the Côte aux Enfants vineyard, the red for the non-vintage comes from Poirier Saint-Pierre and Montboeuf plantings. It's about a five percent blend of red wine (Champagne is the only European region that allows a blend of still red wine to make a rosé wine) into the white base, creating an overall cuvée of 62% Pinot Noir, 24% Chardonnay and 14% Pinot Meunier. As if the aging of the base wines didn't give this wine enough of a pedigree, the blend comes from 85+% of Grand and Premier Crus.
All of this nobility and distinguishment taken into account - as well as my personal enjoyment of the Bollinger style, I found this bottling a shade tired, especially as it opened up and the charm of the bright bubbles dissipated. It was tasty, savory and fairly complex for sure, but the oxidative character was so forward as to make much of the end of the bottle full-on tiring. It's still a perfectly nice wine overall, and I would never refuse a glass. It's just not brimming with the freshness that I would expect of the house. It's Craisin and freeze-dried plum flavors have a bit of a hollowness, despite the gorgeous toastiness that lingers on the refreshing finish. Disgorged February-March 2018
Bollinger NV Champagne Cuvée Spéciale
Tasting this wine is a bit like going home (in the wine world)...at least for me. I like all styles of Champagne, and especially what I was "teethed" on, which were the classic "house" styles of Champagne. (Granted, the Bollinger style is less typical today than it was before the advent of stainless steel and epoxy-lined concrete fermentation tanks. That just makes it even more special.) This one is as toasty as ever (thanks to at least three years of lees contact throughout the aging process), layering light effects of bruised apple and spicy quince paste for verve. The creamy, mouthfilling quality of this bottling of the Cuvée Spéciale gives it plenty of heft that is nicely contrasted by a soaring lift of Chardonnay-driven acidity and pinpoint precise bubbles to carry the flavors into an especially scintillating finish of good length. This is typically 60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Meunier. Disgorged January-February 2018.