As much as I complain about my age, there is at least ONE good thing about it. It allows me a wonderful excuse as to why it took so long to write a post about a seminar I went to that featured my favorite wine, Champagne. No ordinary Champagne mind you, no, this was the house of Bollinger.
How this all happened was probably more a matter of things happening so close together. The day before I was to leave on a trip to visit my daughter I attended this seminar. Notebook at the ready, copious notes taken and then….I left for Arizona and upon my return totally forgot about the event.
It wasn’t until I was flipping through my notebook going over some notes from another seminar that I found paperwork from the event stuffed between sheets of paper. I glanced at them with a curious eye and even did a double-take of the date thinking it was from last year! Nope. That’s when I realized that this had occurred right before leaving. So that’s my excuse….lame as it may be.
What I couldn’t do was NOT do this review as I do remember, vividly, in fact, the Champagnes tried and thanks to my note-taking, some interesting facts.
The seminar began as Nicole Imparato, Sales Manager for Vintus, began to go into detail exactly what makes Bollinger Champagne so special. One of a handful of family-owned Champagne houses and nearing their 100th Anniversary, Bollinger’s primary focus is with the Pinot Noir grape. With 60% of the house’s vineyards planted as such and 85% of total grapes being both Premier and Grand Cru vineyards. From those vineyards the wine for their Cuvees is only First Press juice, to carry on with their “House Style” they have amassed 700,000 magnums of reserve wine to use for their blending, making their Champagnes truly artisanal in nature.
Just as important is the cooperage that Bollinger maintains, the last house to have their own and where the best crus are vinified in predominately neutral oak barrels then aged for three years or longer in their underground chalk caves. Nicole also described the symbiotic (I had to use that from her talk, it’s such a fancy word) relationship between Champagne houses and the growers, given the amount of Champagne produced each year and that the Champagne houses need additional growers to fulfill their lines.
While there were only four Champagnes at the event, they were all remarkable. We began with the Special Cuvée Brut, a blend of 60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Meunier and over 85% Grand and Premier crus and containing over 50% of reserve wine and 5 to 10% of that being from those magnums aged between 5 and 15 years. The Brut Rosé up next, a blend of 62% Pinot Noir, 24% Chardonnay, and 14% Pinot Meunier also having over 85% Grand and Premier crus as well as the reserve wine and older magnums. La Grande Année Rosé 2005 and the La Grande Année 2008 were the last two wines; representing the best of the vineyard in the best vintages, blends of 72-71% Pinot Noir and the balance Chardonnay coming from predominately Grand Cru vineyards then fermented in oak casks, later to be hand riddled and hand disgorged before being aged more than twice the required time, producing what can only be considered among the world’s best Champagnes.
Interesting to note; Madame Bollinger did not want to produce Rosés as she felt they were used in high-end brothels, she was also responsible for the standardization of what has become known as "Récemment Dégorgé," or in English “Recently Disgorged” or “RD” Champagnes. Keeping the Champagne to age on its lees for an extended time before disgorging, thus creating a sumptuous and elegant experience. Madame Bollinger is also responsible for one of the most famous quotes as well:
Even as I sit here typing this post out in what can only be called “Winter in October,” as we are seeing freezing weather, I know too that with the holidays approaching, there will only be more and more tastings that will be bringing out the bubbly! I guess I can stay warm through all that Champagne!