I realised though, that I had been very lucky! To have tasted the likes of 1990, 1995, 1996 as my first experiences of Bollinger and of Champagne, on reflection I understand that the bar had been set extremely high and so many grand and great and exquisite Champagnes had paled in comparison. Worse, and to add, was, that at the time, fortune smiled at me brilliantly with La Grande Annee having little competition and whatever there was, rang the loud bells of the likes of Cristal, Krug Grand Cuvee, Dom Perignon, La Grande Dame.
There and then, I was right at the beginning of the new millennium and more interestingly at the rebirth of Champagne and at the rebirth of Bollinger's vintage wine from mere vintage to a cuvee de prestige. And what better harvests to mark this transition?
When at Bollinger, the grand daughter of Charles Heidsieck with a sigh commented on 1996 La Grande Annee as 'the pact between God and Bollinger'. I don't disagree.
After the 1997 vintage release, doubts have started creaping up and I had longed for the experience of 96, 95, 90 of which the most memorable was that of 95 but I was aware that in terms of vintages my luck was running ashore. The new millennium was dawning and with it so was the global warming along with new socio-cultural trends which, as I later found out, contributed to some fundamental shifts in Champagne.
I do need to reflect on my experiences of 02, 03, 04 in order to offer some justification.
In one of my previous entries, I mentioned the comparisons of those harvests on the backdrop of previously tasted vintages from the 90s. I must add the almost-forgotten harvest of 1992, not purely for the record but this vintage has been surprisingly important for the naughties than the sensational 95, 90, 96.
And the 92, was the expression of Bollinger's highest low; exceptional style, ok harvest, exceptional wine but nothing divine.
And those are the words that best describe 2005.
When I tasted 02, 04, 03, 05 my reluctant but acute disappointment had something to say. I thought, 'Something isn't right here', and my doubts were confirmed when I found out that La Grande Annee had been subjected to malolactic fermentation which made the wines rounder and slightly creamier.
I would be both unfair and unjust, if I continued to rant on with my disappointment. La Grande Annee as a wine is a style that charms many, it consumes other peoples' souls like no other Champagne does, there is something intrinsically visceral to it that binds human souls to it in an inexplicable way. Perhaps it is the viticultural androgyny that the wine manifest, being at once a fizz, and a red wine of incomporable character, depth, elegance and style and it is no wonder that in Champagne, Bollinger is one of the most respected brands.
And I don't need address again the effects of the word: BOLLINGER.