Pinot Noir is so popular that wine drinkers are sometimes surprised to learnt it also makes some of the best bubblies in the world and is one of the key ingredients in champagne, but last week Wellingtonians had a timely reminder with a visit from Champagne Bollinger.
Bolly's commercial director, Guy de Rivoire, was in the country to introduce the company's newest vintage bubbly, the 2008 Bollinger La Grande Année, to importers, restaurateurs, retailers and wine fans.
I attended the tasting and dinner (it's a tough job but someone's got to do it) and it was a great insight into the new 2008 La Grande Année Bollinger - the newest vintage bubbly from this champagne house. It is especially good to taste it now because, to the best of my knowledge, Regional Wines & Spirits is the only retailer in Wellington that has taken stock of this great vintage bubbly.
The new 2008 Champagne Bollinger La Grande Année is a blend of 71% Pinot Noir and 29% Chardonnay from 18 different vineyards, mainly in Aÿ and Verzenay for Pinot Noir and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger and Cramant for Chardonnay. It was 100% fermented in oak and aged for six years - double the legal minimum aging time for vintage champagne set down by the Comité interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC).
All vintage Bollinger is fermented in oak and aged for significantly longer than many of their well known counterparts.
Champagne Bollinger is based in the village of Ay, which is known for its great Pinot Noir vineyards and all Bolly is made using a majority of Pinot Noir.
It's imported by Negociants NZ, which has brought Bolly into New Zealand and distributed it here since 1986.
Bolly is dry
This wine is drier than most champagne too with eight grams of dosage per litre, compared to many wines that would have about 12 grams. And dry champagne is great champagne, provided it has the weight, the body and the power to balance its crisp high acidity and dry flavours. This is where long lees aging plays a crucial role in adding weight because as lees break down and decompose into the wine following the second fermentation in bottle, the wine benefits no end from the release of mano proteins and other delicious tasty savoury flavours in the wine.
Bolly's X factor
All of this – the dryness, the longer aging time, the oak fermentation – adds up to better quality champagne that doesn’t rely on sweetness for flavour but rather on the inimitable combo of freshness from lees aging as the decomposing yeast cells break down, adding complex flavours.
Another factor that gives Bolly an edge, in my book, is that it relies more on Pinot Noir than Chardonnay. These two great grapes are the key ingredients in champagne, along with Pinot Meunier. Pinot Noir gives body and savouriness and that’s what makes Bolly great. I love many Chardonnay dominant champagnes, but there’s something about Pinot bubbles that adds another very welcome dimension.
Bollinger was founded in 1829 and from the start produced drier champagnes than its counterparts. So it’s no surprise that, in 2005, Bollinger bought Champagne Ayala; another brand always known for dry bubbles.
You can purchase Bollinger Grande Annee 2008 from Regional Wines here.