Or shall we call it ‘The Richards’ ?! Instead of ‘The Champagne Oscars’ ? We want to sum-up the year of 2023 from a Champagne perspective. In 20+ categories we hand out awards for this years most memorable Champagnes & Champagne related topics!
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
WHAT IS SO SPECIAL about ‘Vieilles Vignes Françaises’ that we champagne connoisseurs usually call this holy grail? Simply put, ‘Vieilles Vignes Françaises’ is the only quality wine in the world that is made exclusively on pre-phylloxera vines. That is, on a genetic material that is identical to how European wines tasted and were made before the catastrophic ravages of wine lice Europe in the mid and late 19th century. Wines from the deep sandy soils of Portuguese Colares are admittedly still in most cases pre-phylloxera vines, as the wine lice simply do not thrive in pure sand. On the other hand, those wines are far too simple and oxidative to arouse any greater interest today.
‘There are always moments of total drinking magic when opening a new vintage of this world-famous wine. Since the debut vintage in 1969, I have had the pleasure of tasting all the vintages and even though 2013 is a very ordinary year, the wine is absolutely magnificent.
The vintage’s purity and fresh acidity shine through more than usual. It is nevertheless the case that the wealth on top of the fresh layers has the upper hand from the start. Initially, the wine is very reminiscent of Jacquesson’s Vauzelle Terme, also a vineyard champagne from Aÿ made in oak barrels in the form of a pure Blanc de Noirs, so perhaps it is not so strange.
After 10 minutes in the glass, some of the notes that brought to mind Jacquesson disappear and Bollinger finds its way to its unique producer style. The initial notes of red sweet gooseberries, blood orange and Christmas spices are suddenly replaced by dry wood, unlit cigar, licorice, honey, black truffle, sun warm skin, walnut oil and black olives. In the mouth, the concentration and oiliness become clear until you are about to swallow. Then Gravenstein apple, dark chocolate and plum take over together with the fresh resilient acidity that will carry the wine beautifully into a joyful future.’
|2013 Bollinger ’Vieilles Vignes Françaises’
|2012 Bollinger ’La Côte Aux Enfants’
|2015 Deutz ’Hommage à William Deutz Parcelles La Côte Glacièrre’
|mv Bollinger ’PN – VZ15’ [ base’15]
Joseph Bollinger was the German from Würtemberg who founded this ancient house in 1829. The French called him simply “Jacques.” The firm’s large estates in the best Pinot villages were bought by his sons Georges and Joseph, and in 1918 it was time for the next Jacques to take over the property. He became the mayor of Aÿ, but died during the German occupation at the age of forty-seven.
Now Bollinger is run by Charles-Armand de Belenet, who control over 178 hectares,(104 with pinot noir) providing 70 percent of the grape supply. Most of of the wines are Selection Massalle no 386 planted in the twenties. The winemaker today is the wonderful “terroirist” Denis Bunner. Besides the house’s exceptional vineyards, they also use very expensive vinification methods. All the vintage wines are fermented in small, aged oak barrels and are never filtered. Malolactic fermentation—which would probably take place very late in the process—is not encouraged either. The reserve wines are stored at low pressure in magnums. Bollinger make the heaviest and most full-bodied champagnes of any house, and their wines always have a smoky and hazelnuty complexity that is very hard to beat.
The new PN, La Grande Année and R.D are among the very best, but it is clear that the rare and fantastic Vieilles Vignes Françaises, made with grapes from non-grafted Pinot vines, can reach even greater heights. All wines highly recommended.