Back in 1963, the wonderful Madame Lili Bollinger decided she was going to ‘create some competition’ for some of the other Champagne houses’ ‘Prestige Cuvées’ that were being released on the American market at the time. Her bold idea was to take an older vintage (aged champagnes weren’t fashionable at the time), and disgorge* it late. She thought that this late disgorging would give freshness to the wine. It took Bollinger four more years to come up with the name of Bollinger R.D., meaning Recently Disgorged, and they then launched three vintages simultaneously to three different markets – 1952 to the Brits, 1953 to the Swiss and French, and 1955 to the Americans and Italians.
It turns out she was right. Bien sur!
The Bollinger R.D. went on to become internationally renowned, and became the favourite tipple of James Bond. Oh, and Queen Elizabeth II quite likes it, too!
So it was incredibly fabulous to hear that on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of that very first R.D. vintage from 1952, there was a launch of Bollinger R.D. 2002 in Australia in the company of Guy de Rivoire, the Commercial Director of the House of Bollinger. Not only that, but The Fabulous Ladies’ Wine Society’s company was requested!
Meeting Guy de Rivoire was a rare treat. Elegant and sophisticated, the very image of the Bollinger house he represents, he gave us a very interesting account of the history of the house of Bollinger and the philosophy behind their wine making. And because one doesn’t just rush into the introduction to the star attraction, we were given some other champagnes to taste to get our palates into shape before the main event. Bollinger Rosé, La Grand Année 2004 and La Grande Année Rosé 2004, were all served in the lead up.
Interestingly, M. de Rivoire, had the champagnes served in enormous round bowl wine tasting glasses rather than the traditional tasting flute. He explained that although this shape glass will disperse the bubbles very quickly, it allows the complexity of flavours to come through, and it is much easier to see the true characteristics of the wine. Noted.
Bollinger is well known for its Pinot Noir grapes. As such, the champagnes from Bollinger are exceptionally well suited to being paired with food. As another treat, we were given three different dishes to taste and decide which one we thought went best with the R.D 2002.
That’s right – the R.D 2002! Finally the main event! The anticipation by this stage was almost paralysing. The R.D. 2002 has been maturing for over 10 years in those wonderful cellars far beneath the vineyards in Ay. The one we were tasting was disgorged in October 2013, and was finally poured into our glasses in a stream of liquid gold.
Putting my nose in the enormous glass, I could really smell that this was something special. It was full bodied, and incredibly satisfying. I could have nursed that glass for hours!
Although over 10 years old, it was surprisingly fresh, and according to M. de Rivoire, this 2002 is shaping up to be one of those years that will be talked about for decades to come. What a treat to be part of its Brisbane launch.
The Bollinger R.D doesn’t come cheap. At close to $400 a bottle, you are purchasing 50 years of history and knowhow. M de Rivoire suggests, though, if considering investing in a case, which will set you back as much as a pair of Louboutins, that you choose significant moments in the years to come when you decide to open it. The champagne will change and evolve, and every experience will be different.
And that, is just too fabulous for words!
*Disgorging is the process that removes the build up of sediment (or lees) in the neck of bottle of champagne. The neck of the bottle is frozen and then the frozen sediment is popped out. The bottle is then quickly re-corked and sealed ready for sale. Although this process is done by machine for many champagnes, Bollinger R.D. is entirely disgorged by hand.