Bollinger RD 2002, with 11 years on the lees. Part 1: a bit of history

Bollinger RD 2002 has just been launched. The first vintage from the 2000s of Bollinger RD. A champagne that has been resting on its lees in the bottle for 11 Years! It also marks the 50th anniversary of the RD series, from 1952 to 2002. Bollinger’s export manager (who is also a trained winemaker) Karl-Frédéric Reuter, and the company’s assistant Chef de Cave Dennis Bunner were in Stockholm for the launch. BKWine’s Roland Eriksson reports.

What is it that makes Bollinger special? Apart from that it is James Bond’s favourite champagne, that first shows up in Fleming’s book Diamonds are Forever in 1956 and then has appeared in 13 Bond films since. The secret is probably that it is a little fuller and richer in style, which is due to the dominance of pinot noir in the cuvée, and that the first fermentation takes place in oak barrels that are 30-100 year old and that do not give any wood character but just lets the wine get a slightly oxidative tone.

Dennis Bunner, Bollinger

Dennis Bunner, Bollinger, copyright Roland Eriksson

As Karl-Frédéric explained Bollinger is a relatively small company that only represents 1 % of the total Champagne production. It has 164 hectares of its own vineyards, which makes up 60% of what they need for their production. The rest is bought from contracted growers. 85% of the grapes come from grand cru and premier cru vineyards.

The woman behind the wine, experimenting with prestige

The wine business is full of strong women. One of the strongest was Lilly Bollinger. When her husband Jacques died in 1941, in the midst of a world war, with an occupied France, the outlook for the future was anything but bright. But she responded by purchasing more vineyards and expanding production, resulting in increasing prosperity for Bollinger in the 1950s.

In the 1960s several champagne houses started to launch so-called “prestige cuveés”. Lilly Bollinger did not want to be left behind. But she wanted an older vintage, degorged late and with minimal sugar.

The first attempt was a “Réserve 1947” which was released in limited numbers in the U.S. market in 1963. But after considering various options they chose the name RD (récemment dégorgé, or recently disgorged in English). The first vintage, the 1952, went to England in 1967.

Bollinger R. D. 2002

Bollinger RD 2002

Bollinger RD 2002, copyright Roland Eriksson

This is a cuvee of 60% pinot noir, 40 % chardonnay from 23 different vineyard locations of which 71 % is grand cru and 29% premier crus.

The champagne is classified as an “extra brut” with only 3-4 gram dosage. (It will be launched at Systembolaget on April 1 for 1750 SEK.)

Yellow color.

Big fresh aroma, with hints of mineral, citrus, yellow and red apples, a discreet barrel character and a certain nuttiness.

The taste is rich, powerful, dry and fresh, again with hints of red apples, citrus, roasted nuts and some barrel. A very good champagne from a good vintage with great potential. 94p.

Or as Lilly Bollinger said:

“I drink champagne when I am happy and when I am sad. Sometimes I drink it alone. In company I consider it obligatory. I sip a little if I am not hungry and drink it if I am hungry. Otherwise I do not touch it – unless I am thirsty, of course.”

A two part article on Bollinger RD 2002:

Roland Eriksson writes on BKWine Magazine on wine tastings with wine merchants and importers in Sweden. Roland is the author of a book on cognac (A Handbook: Cognac, 2007, published in Swedish) and one on rum as well as one on tea.

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This post is also available in: Swedish

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  1. Bollinger RD 2002, a champagne special cuvée turns 50. Part 2: more on the wine | BKWine Magazine |BKWine Magazine - March 17, 2014

    […] 1: Bollinger RD 2002, with 11 years on the lees. Part 1: a bit of history, by Roland […]

  2. The new 2002 Bollinger R.D., two Egly-Ouriet, and 1995 Cuvée Orpale | Tomas's wine blog - March 18, 2014

    […] Eriksson, who was at the same tasting, wrote a general background on Bollinger as well as his impressions of the 2002 R.D. We both landed at a score of 94 pts, for those who care about such things. Despite a striking […]

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