Product Type: Bollinger Champagne
Newest Review: ... will then rest (they must be tired!) for at least 3 months prior to shipment. Bollinger only make two blends of Champagne, from which... more
Bollinger in general
Member Name: bollinger28
Bollinger in general
Date: 18/12/05, updated on 25/02/13 (1642 review reads)
Advantages: Refreshing and upmarket brand (after all James Bond drinks it...)
Disadvantages: Too expensive a habit to indulge as often as one likes
~~ In victory, you deserve champagne. In defeat, you need it ~~ Napoleon Bonaparte
Despite ever increasing doom and gloom from the media with regard to falling house prices and dropping high street store sales, champagne consumption in Britain has hit an all time high. In fact, us Brits drink nearly as much of it as the French. It's easy to see why it's become such a popular drink, as it's no longer viewed as just the tipple of the rich and famous. It's no longer solely reserved for weddings, christenings and graduations, it's more than likely to be drunk on a picnic, at a race meeting or to celebrate Christmas. Women, in particular, love the stuff as it's something that is viewed as being rather luxurious and special, but with only a mere 90 calories per glass. And let's face it, there's nothing quite like the sound of a champagne cork popping, to denote connotations of luxury and something special going on.
Bollinger is one of the oldest brands of champagne, but I don't think it's as well known as other more famous marques such as Moet et Chandon, Dom Perignon and Veuve Clicquot. However, Bollinger is by appointment to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, James Bond drinks nothing else (apart from his "shaken not stirred" Vodka Martinis of course) and it was, of course, splashed all over by Patsy and Edina in "Absolutely Fabulous". Of all the well known brands of French champagne, and there are plenty to choose from, Bollinger is my favourite. Given a choice between Krug, Moet et Chandon, Dom Perignon, Laurent Perrier, Veuve Clicquot or Taittinger, then I will choose Bollinger everytime.
~~ THE HOUSE OF BOLLINGER ~~
Bollinger is not merely a brand of champagne...it is an institution. To this day it remains a family run firm. It was established in 1829 by Jacques Bollinger and Paul Renaudin. The business was extended by both sons and grandsons over the decades. The most famous character associated with the House of Bollinger was the widow of grandson of the founding owner, Lily Bollinger. Madame Bollinger steered the House through the troubled German occupation of the 1940's and went on to double their output. She was a familiar and well loved character of the Champagne region, often seen cycling through her vineyards to check her grapes. Upon her death in 1977, her nephew Christian Bizot took up the reins. In 1994 the House of Bollinger was handed over to the great great grandson of Jacques Bollinger, Ghislain de Montgolfier and he remains at the helm to this day.
~~ COST & AVAILABILITY ~~
The standard bottles of Bollinger Special Cuvée are readily available from most good off licenses or supermarkets, though you will have to hunt a bit harder for different sized bottles.
~ Half Bottle (37.50cl) = £15.45
~ Standard Bottle (75cl) = £29.95 to £32.50
~ Magnum (equivalent of 2 bottles) = £60.40
~ Jeroboam (double magnum or equivalent of 4 bottles) = £145.00
The following are not freely available to buy and tend to be made for special occasions only (like Royal Weddings or Coronations):-
~ Rehoboam or Mathusalem (triple magnum or equivalent of 6 bottles)
~ Salmanzar (equivalent of 12 bottles)
~ Balthazar (equivalent of 16 bottles)
~ Nebuchadnezzer or Nabuchodonozor (equivalent of 20 bottles)
A good website to source the more unusual sized bottles and vintage variants is Berry Bros & Rudd (website at www.bbr.com).
~~ SERVING TIPS ~~
All champagnes are sold ready to drink. They are best served chilled, but not too cold as the delicate flavours will be spoiled. The best temperature for serving champagne should ideally be between 6°C to 8°C and is easily achieved by refrigerating the bottle for about 3½ hours before serving. When opening champagne, do take the utmost care. Never ever shake the bottle. From the moment, you rip off the foil and start to remove the wire casing, you must be aware that the cork could fly out at any moment. It's happened to me more times than I can remember (years spent working at a racecourse), but it can be a rather startling experience. It's best to have your glasses all lined up ready to go, as well as a tea towel in your hand. Point the bottle away from other people (and yourself), and gently twist the bottle whilst easing the cork out. The cork *should * emerge with a gentle hiss or plop (described rather crudely as similar to "a duchess passing wind" in some circles), and a tiny waft of misty smoke. As a rule of thumb, the louder the noise, the faster the liquid will emerge from the bottle. Keeping the bottle at a 45° angle should help reduce the speed and keep you, and not the champagne, in control of the pouring. Do avoid the temptation to pretend you are a Formula One driver and spray everyone with the stuff......it's such a waste, and it's as sticky as hell. Having the glasses to hand is a good idea as sometimes the champagne will emerge at speed no matter how gentle and careful you are (there are about 49 million tiny bubbles in the average bottle of champagne all itching to get out). Champagne is best served in flute or tulip style glasses with long stems as the tapering shape helps keep your fizz fizzy. The long stem is so that your hands don't warm the champagne and the long narrow tapering top enhances the bouquet and flow of bubbles. Splash a tiny bit into each glass, leave it to fizz up and then settle. Once the initial foam has died down, go back and top the glass up.
~~ APPEARANCE & TASTE ~~
Bollinger Special Cuvée is a non-vintage brut (dry) champagne. That means that it is not a champagne from a single specific year, but a blend from several different years. Vintage champagne is always champagne from one specific year - usually when the crop is of a particularly high quality. Like all champagnes, Bollinger Special Cuvée is sold in a thick glass dark green bottle. This is topped with a yellowy gold foil wrapper hiding the wired down cork at the neck of each bottle. The bottles are decorated with the Bollinger logo and labelling.
I'm not going to pretend that I'm some kind of champagne buff here. In a blind tasting test I very much doubt I would be able to differentiate between any brand of champagne, be it Marks & Spencer, vintage Krug or Bollinger itself. I reckon I could just about pick out an Asti Spumanté, but that would be solely due to the sweetness of it. Therefore, I will do my best and attempt to describe the flavour of Bollinger to you, but please bear in mind I am no Jilly Goulden.
Bollinger is known for being a full-bodied and complex brew, a champagne with guts. It's a creamy fizz with a rich and fresh flavour. It's pale golden in hue capped by a delicate white lacy foaming mousse. Taking your first appreciative sniff into the glass, and you are greeted by the sweetish aromas of grapes, apples and honey, but with an acidic lemony undertone. The bouquet immediately reminds me it's summer, but there's a nuttiness, almost reminiscent of crumbled digestive biscuits. Champagne should be sipped, never gulped, mainly because you need to savour and appreciate the delicate flavours, but also because gulping it will make you belch loudly in due course..... Take a small sip and let the bubbles do their work on tickling and awakening your tastebuds and palate. You can taste the rich fruitiness of the grapes and the sweetish flavours of apples, pears and honey, but there is a definite underlying acidic bite to the beverage, tempered with a creaminess. It's not overly fizzy and delightfully refreshing.
If you find any champagne too dry or just not sweet enough for your palate, then you can always add some orange juice (to make a Buck's Fizz) or Cassis (alcoholic blackcurrant to make a Kir Royale). However, some purists will hold up their hands in horror (the same types who never add ice or water to their malt whisky).
~~ LOADS OF DOSH ~~
If you're feeling flush you may like to upgrade your bubbly to a vintage option. The House of Bollinger offer vintage variants:-
Grande Année 1997 = £60.00
Grande Année Rosé 1997 = £65.00 (red wine is added to the blend to get the rosé tint)
Bollinger RD 1995 = £77.50
Bollinger RD 1990 = £85.00 (top of the range prestige cuvée)
~~ CHAMPAGNE MAKING ~~
I'm not going to go into exhaustive detail on how champagne is made. Basically, champagne is made from black grapes (pinot noir or pinot meunier) and white grapes (chardonnay), which are carefully pressed to avoid damaging their skins, hence the lack of red colouring in champagne. Bollinger Special Cuvée is made with 60% pinot noir, 25% chardonnay and 15% pinot meunier grapes. The grapes are quickly pressed and left to ferment for approximately 10 days in stainless steel vats. The still mixture is then bottled and a blend of sugar, yeast and wine (liqueur de tirage) is added, which causes a second fermentation to take place in the bottle (thereby creating the fizz). The bottles are then stacked in cellars in special racks. Next comes the taping and turning process (known as remuage), whereby the bottles are rotated so that the dead yeast cells of the second fermentation fall into the top or neck of the bottle. In the olden days, this was done by hand but nowadays it is more likely done mechanically. The bottle necks are then placed in frozen brine, which in turn freezes the dead yeast cells. Finally the bottles are turned upright and sludge/dead yeast cells removed (degorgement). Finally, some sweetened wine (dosage) is added to the champagne to determine the sweetness level of the drink. You therefore end up with Brut Champagne (dry), Sec Champagne (medium) or Demi Sec Champagne (sweet). As you can see it is quite a long winded and involved process, thereby resulting in a more expensive beverage. In general champagne is aged for a minimum of 15 months, but Bollinger Special Cuvée is aged for three years in their cellars before being sold.
~~ BEWARE OF IMITATIONS ~~
True champagne must herald from the Champagne region of France. All the best known houses are located between Epernay and Reims, some 90 miles north-east of Paris. The House of Bollinger is in Ay, right in the heart of the champagne region. Any champagne manufactured and bottled elsewhere in the world has to be referred to as "Méthode Champenoise" rather than "Champagne", even if it has used the same grapes and method of bottling and fermentation. Quite simply, the best (and most expensive) champagnes, including Bollinger, herald from the North of France. The slightly damp and cold climate is ideal for the grapes. It doesn't allow them to ripen fully and they therefore remain relatively acidic. Similarly, the chalky soil of the region allows the grapes to remain light and delicate.
~~ CHEERS ~~
It's a definite indulgence and an expensive habit, but drinking any champagne makes you feel a little bit special. My champagne of choice has got to be Bollinger; I like the name, the taste, the prestige of the brand and I enjoy drinking it. In fact, Bollinger champagne is best summed up in the words of Lily Bollinger:- "I drink it when I'm happy and when I'm sad. Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I'm not hungry and I drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it, unless I'm thirsty."
Recommended - cheers, santé, sláinte, l'chaim, prost, salud and Merry Christmas!
~~ OTHER INFORMATION ~~
The House of Bollinger
Rue Jules Lobet
Website: www.champagne-bollinger.fr (can be viewed in French or English) or telephone (0033) 220.127.116.11.31
Visits to the House of Bollinger to view their cellars/take a tour are by appointment or via an organised guided tour of the champagne region.
English distributors of Bollinger are:
Mentzendorff & Co Limited
Prince Consort House
27-29 Albert Embankment
Website: www.mentzendorff.co.uk or telephone 0207-840-3600
Summary: Upmarket and well known champagne brand