Born at Buckingham Palace in 1841, Edward eldest son of Queen Victoria, was crowned Prince of Wales at just four weeks old, but had to wait until he was sixty to ascend to the throne. Educated privately and Edinburgh, Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Edward spoke French, German, Spanish and Italian and toured the world on behalf of the royal family. A gentleman of leisure with fashionable habits, he always spent Christmas at Sandringham, Easter at Windsor Castle and October at Balmoral Castle. His favourite pastimes included racing, yachting and the theatre, and since he was known to enjoy indulging in up to five main meals per day, perhaps its no surprise that the prince was also a huge advocate for champagne.
Bollinger’s champagne was so well-loved by this Prince of Wales that when, during a hunting party at Oxford the Prince would frequently ask his valet for a bottle of Bollinger, this became known in aristocratic circles as “the bottle of the boy” from which the nickname ‘Bolly’ is derived. In 1884 Queen Victoria issued Bollinger with a Royal Warrant, making it an official supplier to the court – Bollinger has retained its ‘by royal appointment’ warrant with every British sovereign since.
The name ‘Special Cuvée’ was introduced for Bollinger’s non-vintage champagne in 1911, at the suggestion of its London agency, Mentzendorff, who felt that Bollinger wines showed far too much finesse to be called ordinary ‘non-vintage champagne’. Always aged for a minimum of three to four years prior to release and containing on average 10 per cent reserve wines (up to 15 years old), at least half of the wines used for the Special Cuvée are cask-fermented – which makes Bollinger Special Cuvée one of the most complex and long-lived non-vintage champagnes on the market. Its somewhat austere character upfront combined with traces of oakiness on the finish can surprise champagne lovers unfamiliar with the House, but this unique signature also makes Bollinger easy to recognise in a blind tasting. A classic, old school 75 per cent black grape blended champagne, ‘Special Cuvée’ is the purest expression of Bollinger style, characterised by its vinosity, freshness and finesse.
To celebrate the 100th Birthday of Bollinger Special Cuvee and the 50th Birthday of Bollinger RD, Stephen Leroux and Guy de Rivoire (from Champagne Bollinger in France) teamed up with Australian brand manager Paul Boothy of Fine Wine Partners to host a special tasting event in Sydney for Australian social media wine writers.
We began our Bollinger Special Cuvee 100th celebration journey by tasting the house’s famous still red wine Cote Aux Enfants 2002. Only 200 cases of this pinot noir were bottled so very few make it as far as Australia. This sexy opening number showed rich jammy fruits on the nose and great structure and tannins on the palate with a hint of mushroom.
The first ever Bollinger NV Rose was released in 2008 just 6wks before the collapse of Lehmann Brothers, but has already proved so popular in the market that its now only available on allocation. The 1999 vintage rose was mesmerisingly rich and fruity – which made me yearn to match it with a strawberry charlotte or pavlova – Personally I see this special rose wine as a great Rugby World Cup 2011 champagne!
One tweeter described the nose on the stunning Bollinger Grande Annee 2000 as “richer than sin” and the palate certainly lived up to the hype – incredibly fresh yet full bodied. For me the real highlight of this taste n tweet session has to be the side by side comparison of the Bollinger RD 1997 and 1988 (which had come directly from the Australian brand manager’s personal secret stock) served in magnum. Both of these champagnes were incredibly complex and engaging with so much going on in the glass – mushroom and nutty flavours as well as vanilla notes and lush creaminess – but the 1988 just blew me away with its opulence and manzilla sherry like flavours that lingered on and on like a fond memory that never fades.
Happy 100th Birthday Bollinger Special Cuvee and Happy 50th Birthday Bollinger RD – Madame Lily would be proud!
Read more about Champagne Bollingerhere.