63% Pinot Noir, 37% Chardonnay
- I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you (we) don’t drink Champagne often enough!
With that being stated from the get-go, I should probably point-out that what we’re dealing with right here isn’t exactly a once-a-week kind of bottle! I’ve been saving this bottle of Bollinger La Grande Annee for a special occasion, and that occasion was last Friday.
So what was the occasion?
Well, the popping of bubbles was maybe ever-so-slightly premature, but the “occasion” was my deciding to not return to the restaurant industry (at least not for the immediate future). I’ve been spending a HUGE amount of time developing my online presence, and I think I’ve finally reached a place whereby I can now take a step-back and focus on my true passion: wine and web.
- Madame Lily Bollinger was quoted as saying: “I drink my Champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I am alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – unless I am thirsty”. My kind of girl!
- The overwhelming majority of Champagne is made from a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes. The exceptions are “Blanc de Blancs” (white of whites) which is made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes, and “Blanc de Noirs” (white of blacks) made from a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes.
- The “Grande Année” is the premium cuvee of Bollinger, and is only made in the best years.
- Bollinger is the “official” Champagne of James Bond, which only makes me love it even more! “Bolly” has appeared in 11 James Bond movies: click here for the full list.
It’s nice to know that even though I can’t afford an Aston Martin (yet), at least I can drink the Champagne!
- Champagne bottles always bear a couple of very small noteworthy initials on the label, which reveal some very valuable information about the wine.
There are 7 possible sets of initials to choose from, based on the type of producer. This particular bottle bears the initials: NM. The easiest way to understand “Negociant Manipulant” Champagne houses is that they buy grapes, make the wine, and then market it and sell it under their own label. The majority of big-name Champagne houses are “NM” producers. I wrote an extremely lengthy article on the topic a while back, if you want more info feel free to check it out.
The grapes for the Bollinger La Grande Annee come from a mix of Grand and Premier Cru vineyards in the Champagne region of France. The 1999 is a blend of different 17 villages, of which 82% are from Grand Crus and 18% from Premiers Crus.
Some of Bollinger’s vineyards are home to extremely rare vines that have remained ungrafted since before the phylloxera epidemic.
Phylloxera is an insect that feeds on the roots of grape vines, and almost wiped-out French vineyards in the late 19th century. The only known solution (still to this day) to deal with Phylloxera is to graft vines onto aphid-resistant American rootstock; and so this is what took place on a mass scale throughout European vineyards.
Around 60% of Bollinger’s grape requirements are supplied by its own vineyards. This is extremely significant as the vineyards of Champagne are divided amongst a huge amount of families, with land rights being passed through multiple generations. Very few families are willing to give up their land, and so Champagne houses are left with no other option than to buy from several vineyards.
Don’t EVER be confused for thinking that Champagne can be produced outside of the Champagne region of France. A number of wineries around the world are doing a great job with their sparkling wines using “methode champenoise” (the Champagne method), but there can be no substitution for authentic Champagne.
What we are dealing here is vintage Champagne. It’s certainly an acquired taste. I can’t say I was overly impressed with my first taste of vintage Champagne, but then again, I didn’t understand it.
Considering the age, the Bollinger La Grande Annee 1999 still had plenty of life in it, and was bursting with flavor with complex bright citrus, ripe apple, butterscotch, biscuits, nuts and bready-type yeast notes. Persistent and elegant on the finish. Even though it’s had plenty of time in the bottle, I would love to taste it again in another 5 years.
Matthew Jukes (Daily Mail wine columnist) was quoted as saying: “La Grande Annee is a joint-venture between God and Bollinger”.
Pair it with whatever you bloody want. I have a hard time believing this wine will do damage to anything it’s paired with! I’m of the first belief that Champagne is one of the most food friendly wines available!
Average retail is around $130, and availability is limited to various online retailers, and very few select “brick-and-mortar” retailers.