by Paige Donner
Bollinger 2004 « La Grande Année » Brut Aÿ, Champagne, France
Tasting Notes : It’s going to be impossible for me to hide or even dilute my enthusiasm for this champagne. It’s excellence in a glass. Toast-y. Brioche-y. Smooth. Brandied fruit. Exotic Spices. Vanilla, Crisp. Stone fruit. Touch of raw walnut. Finesse in a flute. It’s superbly lovely and lengthy. Appearance is harvest rich old gold, emblematic of the greater vintages. Nose at first is light citrus, some toast, green apple. And, natch, those delightfully fine bubbles. It may not be a 2002 but it’s not far behind. Dosage on the light side, 7 to 8 grams.
Price: 99€ ($132USD)
Production Notes : Aged entirely in barrels. But still delicate. 88% Grand Crus and 12% Premiers Crus. Predominantly Pinot Noir with 34% Chardonnay in there. Grapes harvested during an “Indian Summer.” Cellar aged for 6 years (plus).
Pair With : Lobster. Grilled fish with or without sauce but I’d opt for without sauce. Comté. Aged Parmesan. Seared foie-gras. Or alone. Just as it is. As an aperitif or practically as a meal unto itself. Serve at between 10˚C and 12˚C.
House Notes: The essential piece
Its minimalism makes it enduringly modern. It suits everyone and goes with everything… The “one day, maybe” piece.
This is the stuff of dreams. It doesn’t really matter if it remains unattainable, the vision is what counts.
It is: James Bond’s dinner jacket, a diamond riviere necklace, an aspirational watch, a bespoke Savile Row shirt.
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 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 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