For almost two centuries, the Bollinger House has crafted exceptional wines that are also moments of beauty. In the finely woven golden bubbles, an entire way of life is perpetuated, an ancient, yet highly modern story dominated by the protective figure of Madame Elisabeth Bollinger. The radiant personality of Madame Bollinger, a Scottish-French aristocrat who, on the death of her husband, ran the family estate from 1941 to 1971, exemplifies the House’s commitment to excellence. A pioneering businesswoman and a strategist gifted with a rare intuition, she imbued the House with her spirit of independence and exquisite style.
“Less is more,” said this visionary woman, with an almost austere elegance if it had not been for her famous string of white pearls. Such is the golden rule which, even today, defies fashion trends and requires human expertise, nature and time to guarantee the quality of Bollinger champagnes. The British Monarchy was quite right when, in 1884, it awarded the House the prestigious Royal Warrant, as official suppliers to the Court. Today this special link between Bollinger and Great Britain is exemplified by the House’s long-term partnership with Ascot. Bollinger, as the first Official Champagne in Ascot’s history, is poured at two exclusive bars within the Royal Enclosure Gardens every year at Royal Ascot. On the top of that, Bollinger is the official champagne of James Bond and has been alongside Her Majesty’s secret servant for 50 years.
The House’s pioneering spirit draws its strength from the very land where it originates. The extraordinary quality and fertility of its vineyard which spans two hundred hectares produces some of the finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. A treasure, subsequently refined by the expertise of the House’s artisans and master craftsmen. No training could teach such expertise since it is the sensitivity of experience supported by a constant awareness of the most innovative technologies. From one generation to the next, manufacturing secrets and ancestral techniques – riddling of the bottles by hand, cork stoppers, vinification in wood, etc. – are passed down within the House.
Finally, there is the reliance on the intangible ally of time. A long, patient and generous time, which takes care of the ripening of the aromas and the subtle effervescence of the wines. Only then is beauty added to perfection; the balance is fragile and powerful, wavering between energy and lightness, depth and extreme finesse. The personality of Bollinger manifests itself in champagnes that reflect all the subtle nuances of its style. The Bollinger style is characterised by the expression of the fruit’s full palette of aromas in champagnes that are both deep and subtle and which strike a perfect balance between the intensity of great Pinots Noirs and the freshness of Chardonnays from the Côte des Blancs. Bollinger wines reveal a creamy effervescence resulting from vinification in oak barrels and prolonged yeast contact. This style stems from a solid base, rooted in five tangible principles:
The House Vineyard
A Champagne House is nothing without its vines and the founders were quick to understand that to make a very great wine, they needed the best grapes in Champagne. So over the years the Bollinger vineyard, made up almost exclusively of Grand and Premiers crus, has continued to expand. Today it covers 166 ha and provides over 60 per cent of the House’s requirements, which is rare in the Champagne region. Bollinger also buys in supplies from winegrowers who own vineyards in the best crus. As partners of the House for a good many years, they enrich the blend and offer Bollinger the luxury of choice in producing the various different cuvees.
The principal feature of the Bollinger range is its majority of Pinot Noir in its blends. Located in Aÿ, listed as 100 per cent Grand cru Pinot Noir, the House could not have hoped for a better terroir to exploit and extract the best of this grape variety, which accounts for 60 per cent of the total grape variety in the vineyard.
Vinification in Wood
The first fermentation in oak barrels is what undoubtedly makes Champagne Bollinger stand out from the rest. Remember however that the House does not use new wood but small, used barrels, which are not meant to add tannic woody aromas, but rather to encourage controlled oxidation by acting as a filter between the wine and the outside world. This gives the wines an incredible ageing potential and allows for the development of highly complex aromas.
Reserve Wines in Magnums
The connoisseurs are unanimous: the quality and reliability of a Champagne House are determined mainly by its non-vintage dry. In addition to partial fermentation in barrels, the Champagne Bollinger non-vintages, Special Cuvée and Bollinger Rosé, have another equally exceptional characteristic that is quite unique in Champagne: the addition of reserve wines from Grand and Premiers crus fermented in barrels, aged in corked magnums for between five and 15 years.
The notion of time is an integral part of Bollinger. Firstly because all the wines are left to age on lees for two or three times as long as stipulated in the regulations set out by the Champagne Appellation, so that the wine can develop and gain in complexity. But this notion of time does not stop at simply choosing to allow the wines to age for a long time in the cellars: it extends to the whole Champagne Bollinger philosophy. At Bollinger we let nature run its course; if the harvest does not reach vintage standards, we wait until the following year or even the one after that, so that quality always prevails over quantity. To take this idea even further, only the La Grande Année vintages with an exceptional ageing potential will be left several years longer in the cellars to become the famous Bollinger R.D. cuvees, to delight the taste buds of the most demanding tasters.
As the icon of the brand, Special Cuvée embodies the Bollinger style with its depth and subtlety. In 1911, Georges Bollinger’s British agent gave him the idea for the name Special Cuvée – ‘special’ written the English way, without an accent. He thought the French expression “Brut sans année” was no match for such a subtle champagne. More than a hundred years later, the name of Bollinger’s key figure champagne still symbolises both its expertise and its history.