Saturday, 5 February 2011

2003 BY BOLLINGER; 2003 PAR BOLLINGER

This entry has nothing to do with the previous one. Although I'll presenting not only a legendary house but also a legendary year. These, however are not quite that legendary to make an entry into the essay on the myths and the legends.

2003 was year to remember. Not just that I officially graduated from University but also that I returned to my parent's house after an educational 3 years abroad but also that somehow the year turned out to have been quite interesting on the personal front.

Viticulturally, and as you will probably read in a variety of mags, was everything but normal. I was in Paris and Chamapagne that spring only to notice an early onset of foliage on the trees. Little did I know that 2003 would be the hottest year on record for over a decade. I ventured to the north of Sweden in May 03. Leaving Slovakia's 35+ degrees centigrade and arriving in the Umea to only about 7 degrees with ice still flowing in the local river and crocuses just about to bloom. I spent the summer in Ireland which felt like a sea side resort not the emerald island. God it was hot hot hot hot and hot hot hot hot and hotter! The one regret I will always have of that summer is that I should have bought the Dom Ruinart Rose 88! Too late I guess.

So once I left Ireland only to find myself with a 15kg rucksack wandering through Champagne on foot covering 160km of the region's famous villages, vineyards and towns. As much as the region produces the best drink on this planet the region in itself is not that compelling. In fact it is actually down right dull.

Anyway; 2003 was so hot that the grapes were harvested in August as opposed the normal harvest time of September and because the weather continued to be hot well into September this had a suprising effect on the left over bunches on the vines which also reached maturity of sugars and acids. This meant that 2003 had 2 harvests. Excessive heat is never really a good thing. It increases the sugar content in the grapes at the expense of natural acid content. The perfect year would have the rating of equal acid and equal sugar content in the grape around the value of 10 (I think it is actually 10 mol per gram, not sure though) The most perfect years that I know of were 1990 and 1996 where 1990 was praised as the best since 1928. So 2003 would be nowhere near those wanted values.

So Bollinger decided that since they had two harvest and the year was so exceptional they would release something other than the standard range. It would have been too early to release the vintage as La Grande Annee and for the Special Cuvee it would be just lost. Thus I think that the 2003 special release was a brilliant marketing move.

When I first heard of it it was in 2007 so by then it was already disgorged meaning that it only had around 3 years on lees. I bought the first bottle in January 2008 and then on in May 08 one in Dec 08 one in May 09 and the last one few days go.

Initially the wine was 'green'. As it developed in the bottle it reached a very nicely fragrant acacia wood and honey tones but the last bottle was just fine and the body and power has almost disappeared. When I saw the bottle my dilema was resolved immediately as I thought that this cuvee was now extinct so my debit card took the pain. But I was wrong. There are two more bottles in the shop awaiting my purchase. Since the wine has gone 'to a tunnel' I won't be too eager to cough up £50+ for a another bottle. I don't think it is worth the try anymore. :(

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