Bollinger R.D. 1995 Champagne

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€ 160,00

Bollinger R.D. 1995 Champagne

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  • Bollinger R.D. 1995 Champagne
  • Bollinger R.D. 1995 Champagne
  • Bollinger R.D. 1995 Champagne

Bollinger R.D. 1995, disgorged in 2005

Tasting note: 

"Disgorged 15 Oct 2006. Very interesting comparison with 1996. Very hot summer. Fast maturation and harvest started 20 Sep. 1995 like was like 1988 and 2007 and 2008. The malolactic was not done so the acid is higher than usual but in a different style. Lowest pH ever in Bollinger at 2.86. Only 63% Pinot Noir. 17 villages. 82% Grands Crus.11,000 kg yield, potential alcohol 9.2%, initial acidity 8.7g/l, pH 2.86, final TA 6.2g/l. Lots of acidity and rather simpler notes than there are in the 1996. Tingly. Passion fruit aromas. Polished texture. Lemon-syrup character that, ideally, will develop into something even more interesting. (Drink between 2009-2020)" 18/20 points Jancis Robinson



Of all the top champagne houses, Bollinger, perhaps alongside Krug, has the most distinctive and assertive style.  Always in relative youth an exuberant, rich, complex and powerful champagne, many champagne buffs seem able to spot it blind in tastings.

It is especially associated with Britain, given a royal warrant by Queen Victoria in 1884 and various monarchs since.  Other specifically English ties include James Bond, the longtime support of the Madame Bollinger Foundation for the Institute of Masters of Wine and its dubious association as the tipple of relaxing London city finance traders who, in caricature at least, love their ‘Bolly’, along with other carousing yahoos of the non-digital kind. Its full-on complex, autolytic and oxidative style embodies, so I have been told by some champagne makers, the British taste in champagne.

It is the official champagne of the UK’s Royal Ascot week, the Boat Race, the Open Golf Championship and the official champagne of England Rugby.  The UK is still the biggest importer even while it has become a global brand.  It ensures its main product the Special Cuvée NV Brut, is always the highest priced Brut NV champagne on the market bar Krug’s Grande Cuvée.

Bollinger are proudly independent. Moreover, they pride themselves on painstaking high standards and no short cuts to quality. The story begins with the aristocrat Villermont who owned 10ha of vineyard in Aÿ at the beginning of the 19th century with a family history back to the 15th and landowning in Cuis.  German Joseph ‘Jacques’ Bollinger from Würtemburg was already working in the champagne trade and at the behest of de Villermont, founded a company in 1829 to trade the de Villermont wines, along with partner Paul Renaudin.  The company was called Renaudin, Bollinger & Co and that was the full name for the next 130 years.  In 1837 family ties were strengthened when Jacques married de Villermont’s daughter.  The company blossomed and bought land particularly on the Montagne de Reims but with the house’s base firmly in Aÿ.  By the time Jacques died in 1888 the firm’s reputation in Britain was confirmed in the heyday of Champagne’s expansion, both as part of the fashion for drier champagnes and the Queen’s warrant in 1884.  Grandson to ‘Jacques’, another Jacques Bollinger, took over and saw the firm through to 1941 when he died young at 47, Mayor of Aÿ under nazi occupation.  His wife, Scottish and then aged 42, became the Champagne widow ‘Lily,’ driving forward the fastidious pursuit of quality, detail and rigour, both on and off her famous bicycle.  Petrol was in short supply under the Germans.  After the war she doubled the firm’s output and, the last of the Bollinger line, died in 1977.  The modern era began under her nephew Christian Bizot.  Following him, founder Bollinger’s great-great grandson Ghislain de Montgolfier took over and on his retirement in 2008, the house is presently led by Jérôme Philipon.  2012 saw the opening of a brand new cellaring and logistics centre in Oger, while the traditional HQ and ‘soul’ of the house remains firmly in the Marne and Aÿ.  Annual production is some 2.5m bottles of which over 80% is exported, 40% of that to the UK.

The house, through its holding company also has important separate wine interests, not least, Champagne Ayala, the Burgundy firm Chanson (also the source of Bollinger’s barrels), Delamain cognac and Langlois-Chateau in the Loire.

Bollinger today boasts one of the biggest vineyard estates of the ‘grandes marques’ houses, some 164ha, an important key to high quality because it gives total control of viticulture and consistency of ‘core’ sourcing for blends, as well as one reason for financial stability, making it about 65% self-sufficient in grape supply Houses with few vineyards are at the mercy of the ever spiralling grape price.  85% of the estate is in grand and premier cru and 60% of the holdings are planted to Pinot Noir, the same fraction as in the Special Cuvée Brut and this emphasis on Pinot Noir as well as large holdings on the Montagne de Reims at a high ‘échelle’ rating, form the stylistic DNA of the house.

However, there are other important vineyards owned in Champvoisy (17ha Marne Valley and largely Pinot Meunier) and Cuis (over 20ha, Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs).  Bollinger’s rare de luxe cuvée Vieilles Vignes Françaises(launched by Lily Bollinger in the 1969 vintage) is produced from .5ha in two prized tiny plots ‘en foule’ close to the Aÿ buildings, Clos St Jacques and Chaudes Terres, which are on their own roots having always resisted phylloxera, and so are propagated by ancient ’layering’ (in French ‘provignage’ or ‘marcottage’). A cane branch of a vine is bent and simply stuck in the adjacent ground and grows the roots of a new plant.  There was also a tiny parcel, Croix Rouge in Bouzy, used in this wine until 2003 when phylloxera struck. I was somewhat shocked on a visit once to see spraying of these Aÿ vines by a white space-suited robot-like figure.  Health and safety meets the middle ages!

As with most big houses, it is hard to report or assess the vineyard regime at Bollinger, even though their estate is huge.  There’s no question, when you look at most blocks tended by the houses that they are often highly ridged and compacted from tractor passes, clearly not cultivated, and the light brown dead foliage of weeds knocked down by herbicide is there for all to see.  Operations are as mechanised as possible, geared to producing high yields of big bunches.  It’s the volume, stupid.  But there is evidence of slow change amongst the houses perhaps galvanised by Louis Roederer.  Bollinger’s website now talks of grassing the alleys, biological pest control and reduced herbicide.  They report that 4ha of the prized Côte aux Enfants vineyard in Aÿ is managed organically.

Bollinger use a highly distinctive wine-making regime.  In a nutshell this is: 1. The Special Cuvée NV has its base year vins clairs made up to two thirds in stainless steel.  This is the only use of modern vats by the house.  There are usually two base years blended, the older of the two in high proportion and then further reserves of some 6-12% are added.  2. The older reserve wines are barrel-fermented and then kept in magnum with a light yeast and sugar addition to provoke a protective carbonic shield to oxidation and sealed with cork and an agrafe or staple rather than a crown cap.  3. All vintage wines are all barrel-fermented and at tirage the bottles are sealed with cork not crown cap.   It is a generally oxidative, barrel and cork method.  But nowadays there is precise control of the rates of oxidation to keep them minute and slow so that complex secondary flavours result and which do not entirely obscure minerality and fruit. The point of corks for the ageing of the vintage wines, which Bollinger hold on their second lees for 5-10 years, is not to increase oxidation rates but control them more strictly as their research tells them crown caps increase oxygen ingress after some five years and corks work better to minimise oxidation.

The Special Cuvée NV is about 60% Pinot Noir (and 35% of that from Aÿ), 25% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Meunier, the only wine made with Meunier and 85% grands and premiers crus.  Malolactic is usually completed although this is not innoculated in the wines from barrel but often occurs naturally.  The use of  the preceding year in high proportion to the base year means that along with the other reserves added, the strict % of reserve wines is very high, sometimes a majority of what is bottled.  Time on second lees is 30-36 months and dosage 8-9g/L.

For all the obvious built-in complexity and fairly full-bodied style, it is often instructive to taste this wine blind against other big house Brut NVs.  I often prefer the Bollinger because its style is usually precise, focused and mordant with all the deeper currents of nuts and spice there but subdued in youth.  Keep a bottle of this in good conditions for two to five years and the nutty more burnished flavours emerge.  But what predominates and often makes Bollinger shine against its competitors is its very fine texture or ‘finesse’.  My feeling is that this caressing but energetic poise, something shared with all top champagne but achieved by few, is rooted in the long bottle-aged reserves as well as the sheer high quality of the original terroirs.

Most famous from the James Bond appearances

RD is made up exclusively of Premier Cru and Grand Cru fruit, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay only, the free- run cuvée juice only and, unusually, is always sealed by natural cork
during ageing, which tends to be nine to 10 years before general release. (It used to be eight years but demand for champagne has been so sluggish of late that this has been
extended. Philipon admitted that champagne sales had been 'catastrophic' in 2009 when prices fell by around 8% overall, but reported that they had been picking up since
November last year with particularly strong demand from the US.) Dosage is usually a relatively low 4 g/ l.
In the 40 years of RD's existence, 18 different vintages have been released

Producent Bollinger
Jaar 1995
Appellation Champagne
Climat Nee
Flesgrootte 0,75 L
Aantal flessen 1
Conditie Nee
Waardering Nee