I was invited to a tasting of the blend of the Special Cuvee in March this year. The tasting took place mid April and you might wonder why I have not written about it. Well, for a variety of reasons: a, the tasting, as an experience, robbed me of all the words to describe it b, I was professionally involved with wine, and I didn't think to impart critical thoughts about any aspect of it publicly c, it was one the things that I never thought I would achieve, or experience so naturally, the shock from the whole thing was both, intense and long lasting c, the tasting was filled with so many new sensations that I still haven't quite reconciled my emotions about them. To be really honest, this kind of experience, was something I had always wanted but because I have always been on the periphery of the wine world, I never thought would materialise.
I am no different in recognising that Bollinger is a highly respected brand in Champagne and in the world of wine, commerce, branding, entertainment, sensation, banking, fashion or in more simple terms, Bollinger as a brand is intricately woken in everyone's fabric of life. Those that know me would argue that Bollinger is my favourite brand, but that is not true as, for instance, this year my favourite, is Ayala (incidentally, owned by Bollinger). With Champagne, it is important to understand that every house, well most at least, does endeavour to convey a unique style, and the Champagne appellation is a great platform to allow so many producers from one region to deliver different expressions, or more pragmatically, products.
So the panel consisted of me, my colleague from the shop I used to work at, a few writers, the local reps and who knows else. One thing I have to remark on, is that I was surprised how little, or ill prepared others were. We were taken through the 2015 Pinot Noir from Tauxieres, 2015 Chardonnay, 2015 Pinot Meunier and from 2014 all basic varieties, along with 2006/7/8 reserve wines stored in magnums. The magnums are a unique thing to Bollinger and I was curious how much the reserve wines contribute to the style. To add, we tasted the cepage/blend before 'pris en mouse' and aging. Naturally, it was a brilliant analysis of the process of creating the Special Cuvee, what Bollinger declares to be the vehicle, or the flag ship, of the House of Bollinger; a sort of naked tasting of Bollinger. To gloat about how unique the experience was, apparently it was the first time Bollinger did something of this kind outside of Champagne.
I wasn't the only one who was impressed with the 2015 Pinot Noir. I would call it 'Le Perfume de Bollinger' but that would be a complete lie because I would die to know what the base wines for Vielles Vignes Francaises (VVF) must have tasted like. The wine was a smack in the face and there wasn't just one 'wow'. Denis Bunner, deputy cellar master, understatedly declared it only as 'expressive'. Just to give you an idea, Tauxieres is a village in Montagne de Reims which is famous for growing the best Pinot Noir in Champagne. Its slopes are north-east, east, south-east and south facing which give the grapes differing intensities in expression. So if the Tauxieres intensity had an enormous wow factor, and it is south east facing, with added sun of south facing slope of Ay where Vielles Vignes Francaises are grown, I am very excited about what VVF will reveal in a few years time.
In Champagne blending is something of an art. It is crucial and in many respects one of the key features of Champagne as a wine. To blend variety of still/base wines from differing grapes and differing plots with differing intensities and further work with production methods to achieve a distinguishable style isn't exactly the easiest task but with a years of experience and an ongoing dialogue and honest opinions it is evidently achievable. And it is clearly achievable not only by The House of Bollinger but many others. So much so, that even a layman can tell the difference; and that is the actual point.
But that is not just what Champagne is about. :)
More some other time!