Bollinger is without any doubt one of the best known and respected Champagne brands in the UK. Established almost two centuries ago, it has always stood tall and proud, with an excellent reputation for its top quality and tradition. Arguably most famous for being the favourite Champagne of Her Majesty's Secret Agent, James Bond, since the film ‘Live and Let Die’, Bollinger carries with it a prestigious history. Known for its strong, bold, almost masculine style, where the Pinot Noir grape dominates, it can be immediately recognised.
Bollinger stands true to its traditions and retains many facets of the ancient craftsmanship of Champagne production, of which it is rightly proud. A Champagne house with a venerable history and tradition, it is now run by the great-great grandson of the founder Joseph Bollinger, thus retaining the family ownership and legacy, and is one of the relatively few independent, family owned Champagne houses still remaining.
What's The Background To Bollinger?
The Champagne house of Bollinger was founded in 1829 by Joseph Bollinger and Paul Renaudin. Known as Renaudin-Bollinger until 1960, when it became simply Bollinger, it was run by the two founders until Bollinger’s sons took over in the mid-19th century. Success in building a formidable quality reputation and renoun for the brand was taken to such extent, that it received a Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria in 1884.
The person best known for driving the Bollinger Champagne house to glory and greatness was the late wife of the great-grandson of the founder, Lily Bollinger, who took over at the helm in 1941, after her husband’s death during the war; she is responsible for the greatest expansion of the company, including the acquisition of new vineyards.
Her legendary presence extended across the world, where she travelled to build the brand’s awareness. Known for her elegance, charm, but also fierce determination and strong business mind, she was a perfectionist, who championed the focus on optimum quality, and was well known for being spotted visiting her vineyards on her bicycle! It is she who created the now legendary and highly original Bollinger RD.
Mme Bollinger, as she was known, is remembered for being a supreme ambassador for Bollinger, and also for some world famous quotes about Bollinger Champagne:
‘I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m 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’m thirsty’.
She ran the business until 1971, when she handed it over to her two nephews, but retained a strong involvement until her death in 1977. One of her nephews, Christian Bizot, led the business until 1994; it was he who was responsible for the unique and world famous association of Bollinger with 007 secret agent James Bond, from the 1973 films onwards, to the present day Bond, Daniel Craig, requesting Bollinger in ‘Casino Royale’ and also having a bottle to hand in ‘Goldeneye’. He met and formed a great friendship with ‘Cubby’ Brocoli, and the relationship grew from there.
Since 1994, the great-great grandson of the founder, Ghislain de Montgolfier has run the company. Now, with over 150 hectares of vines, over 70% of the production is made from grapes from owned vineyards.
What Styles Of Wine Does Bollinger Make?
Bollinger is almost unique, in its reliance and focus on blends made predominantly from the Pinot Noir grape, which are responsible for its fleshy, yet supremely elegant styles of wine, with complexity and longevity.
Another characteristic of the house is that over 80% of the wines are barrel fermented, with the wines then spending a number of years on the yeast lees – in the case of the iconic Bollinger RD, over 10 years. This produces wines of incredible complexity and style, present across their various guises. Over 60% of the blends are Pinot Noir.
Bollinger Special Cuvee - the house blend, with over 60% Pinot Noir, producing a powerful, ample and oaky style, which ages well and has a minimum 10% of reserve wines, which can be up to 15 years old. Rich, full flavoured, with bold, biscuity ripeness. There is also Bollinger Special Cuvee Rose, made under similar principles.
Bollinger Grande Annee - produced only in the very best years, when Bollinger believe the wines have reached a perfect balance, Grande Annee Champagne is made exclusively from grapes from grand cru and premier cru vineyards, and is aged solely in small oak barrels, which add to its characteristic sophistication. Supremely elegant, unique, and incredibly complex.
Bollinger RD - a Champagne created by Madame Bollinger’s unique vision and passion; a vintage Champagne, made only in the very best of vintages and matured for over 10 years before disgorgement; a phenomenal taste experience, with the incredible richness, depth, and longevity - yes, this is James Bond’s favourite Champagne!
Bollinger Vieilles Vignes Francaises - a tiny production of Champagne, entirely Pinot Noir, from old and ungrafted vines, to show a unique method of how Champagne used to be made.
What Do these Wines Go With?
Whilst Champagne is traditionally known as a celebratory aperitif, it is a lesser known fact that many of these wines are great food wines.
Special reserve – great on its own, or with the classic Champagne accompaniment of ‘gougeres’, little puffs of cheesy pastry; also great with seafood, and the ultimate in decadence, fish and chips!
Bollinger Rose - Rose champagnes are always great food wines; think prawns, smoked salmon, and also poached salmon or chicken.
Vintage Champagnes – these have more weight and structure, and can cope with a greater variety of foods – well matched to all kinds of fish dishes, especially roast salmon, rich chicken dishes, and some medium-flavoured, washed rind cheeses.