Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut Aÿ, Champagne, France
by Paige Donner
Tasting Notes : Hints of roasted apples, spiced apple compote, peaches greet your nose after your eyes have been seduced by the fluttering of fine bubbles in that golden champagne color indicative of a Pinot Noir predominant blend. Full-bodied and toasty pretty much sums it up but also perhaps oversimplifies the aromatic complexity of this champagne. Creamy on the palate with notes of brioche, pear, green apple – with some spicy and a bit of walnut that all goes down on the velvet of the very fine Bollinger bubbles. 12% alc. Between 8 -9 gr. Dosage.
Price: $57.99 (approx.)
Production Notes : The secret to this iconic NV champagne is that it is mostly reserve wine, some aged in magnums for over 15 years in the Bollinger cellars in Aÿ, blended with harvest grapes. And, as any champagne aficionado knows, champagne ages superbly in magnums, a process that helps it acquire that biscuity, toasty quality so emblematic of the best champagnes. Over 85% of this blend is Grands and Premiers Crus; 60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Meunier.
Pair With : Sushi and sashimi – the fresher the better; pata negra and prosciutto; Also grilled lobster, prawns; poultry and white meat; cashews, parmesan. Serve between 10 – 12˚C. You can keep it up to 8 years – that is, if you don’t drink it all now.
Notes from the House… for those who know that true elegance is born of simplicity will appreciate to the full this commitment to aesthetics and succinctness. It is also a reflection of the House’s commitment to concentrating on the essential: creating fine and good wines. Because in the end, everything else is simply superfluous.
The House of Bollinger Champagne began many decades before, but “Aunt Lily,” as she was known to her family members, still figures prominently in the House’s style and legacy ever since she was at the helm of the house in the 1950s until her passing in 1977. She is probably one of the most quoted dames of Champagne (see below).
Originally a Scotswoman, she married her husband Jacques, at one point the Mayor of Aÿ, in 1923 who himself had become the managing director of Bollinger Champagne at the tender age of 24. By the age of 42 she was a war widow and it was then that she stepped in, like other famous champagne widows before her, and took the reins of her house and steered it with an eye to perfection and unwavering dedication to excellence and innovation. This is the modern legacy “Madame Jacques,” became known for.
But going back to the previous century, 1829 to be exact, when the house was first formed is really to delve into the annals of international history. Original founder of Bollinger Champagne, Count Athanase de Villermont, was a nobleman and a war hero from the American Revolution. He became fascinated with the wines of Aÿ, Champagne when he inherited an extensive estate in this choice viticultural area of the Marne upon his return to France. The reason why the house did not take the name of “de Villermont” is because, at that time, the French aristocracy were forbidden to engage in trade. So Count Athanase partnered with Joseph Bollinger, a German, and Paul Renaudin, a Champenois. And thus, on Feb. 6, 1829 a champagne house was born – one that has ever since become synonymous with excellence, quality… and international intrigue (as in, Diamonds Are Forever).
Since 2008 Ghislain de Montgolfier, a great-great grandson of Joseph Bollinger, passed the reins, for the first time in the house’s history, to a non-family member, Jérôme Philipon. In 2007 Ghislain’s great sense of humor coupled with his technical expertise got him elected as Head of the Board of the Union des Maisons de Champagne and co-Chairman of the Comité interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC).
“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.“
17th October 1961, Daily Mail