Every Friday The no1 Champagne expert in the world will taste new & old Champagne s to give You a tip or two for the weekend. This week Richard Juhlin taste Bollinger ‘La Côte aux Enfants’ 2012 Champagne Friday 36.0 (SWE)
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Tasting note by Richard Juhlin;
‘Between 1926 and 1934, Jacques Bollinger bought up all the land in La Côte aux Enfants from a large number of growers in Aÿ because he understood the value of making a monopoly vineyard out of this diamond in the rough. In total, the area is 4 hectares with a sun-drenched side of 2 hectares which is extremely well suited for red wine production, as well as a lesser-known cooler back side in the north-west towards Dizy with an extremely clean chalk only covered by a decimetre thick layer of soil. Since 1934, Bollinger has made the most sought-after red wine in the entire region from here. From the beginning only for private use and since the 80’s in commercial form. Since the first time I tasted the red wine, I have wished that Bollinger would make a Blanc de Noir from here. In 2012, my wish was apparently granted in silence. Then and there the red wine turned into a golden champagne that now 10 years later meets my senses during a zoom meeting with today’s winemaker Denis Bunner and the gentleman Guy de Rivoire a few months before the launch.
In this amazingly rare creation that will be roughly 10% below Vieilles Vignes Françaises in terms of price, the grapes come only from the cooler northwest side planted with vines from Burgundy. Selection Massale of course and with an extremely low harvest that the premiere vintage only produced 1000 bottles for all the world’s champagne collectors to fight over. After the harvest, the wine is stored for an optimal time in the house’s main well-aged oak barrels and then rests for 10 years in the cellar with natural cork for maximum autolytic body building in the same spirit as the vintage wine and VVF. So, in a way, a Blanc de Noirs d´Aÿ made in a Burgundy fashion a´la Richebourg or Romanée-Conti.
Altogether, all these details result in a truly fantastic deep golden wine that balances in an almost otherworldly way between an enormously intense concentration and a rarely seen mineral-tinged freshness. The chalk note from the unique growing place sounds pure like a Stradivarius playing solo, and the bass notes from fully ripe Pinot Noir rumble together with the bombastic weight of the oak barrel like the basic chords of Mahler’s second symphony. Already after a few seconds of encountering the wine’s wonderful bouquet, I could state that 2012 Bollinger La Côte aux Enfants is in many ways the very essence of “old style Bollinger”. Certainly somewhat lighter and less oily concentrated than VVF and not quite as multi-faceted as R.D. or La Grande Année. Yet this wine personifies the soul and heart of Bollinger better than any other wine. If you have been in Bollinger’s cellar and in the beautiful hall where all the oak barrels are lined up, you will probably never forget the unique aroma you find there.
With Bollinger’s deliberately oxidative vinification, all wines from there will be strongly influenced by their external environment. When everything goes right, as it has here, this influence adds a fabulously stylish personal spice. In the first place, of course, it is the micro-oxidation through the fibers of the oak barrel that leaves an impression, but also the notes of old oak with their grilled, lightly burnt and faintly smoked notes that attract autumn forest and Finnish sauna give great pleasure. From the concentrated Pinot Noir grapes, you get an extract-rich juiciness and a chewy red fruit of Gravensteiner apple, beetroot, apricot jam, strawberries and honey. From Aÿ’s terroir comes an unmistakable aroma of hazelnut, honeysuckle, leather and tobacco. This time from the cool northwest slope, we also find a chalky minerality so pure that it even gives notes of grapefruit, lemon and lime zest in the fresh aftertaste. Did I forget something important? Yes, I forgot to tell you about the amazingly pure aroma of the finest raw wild snowball mushrooms and cep that every great bottle of Bollinger should have a well balanced dose of. There is generally an exaggerated fear of mushroom aromas in the wine world as many mushroom aromas can originate from defects. But the day I don’t find truffles in Château Trotanoy and Romanée Saint Vivant or cep in my gastronomically perfected Bollinger, I no longer want to be part of it! I am aware that it may sound snobbish and unattainable, but if you have the opportunity, please try PN, VVF and La Côte aux Enfants side by side for a full understanding of the greatness and personality of the wines within the same secure and majestic framework signed by Bollinger.’97(98)p
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