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 I drink it when I am.
Otherwise I never touch it, unless I’m thirsty.“
17th October 1961, The Daily Mail London
Bollinger became the official supplier of Champagne to the British court, receiving a Royal Warrant in 1884 from Queen Victoria followed in 1950 by King George VI and the Queen Mother. HRH The Queen awarded her Royal Warrant to Lily Bollinger in 1955.
The most prized Bollinger Champagne is that generally made from grapes of the ‘original’ Vieille Vignes Françaises (old french vines). These are the few surviving vines that have resisted the devastating phylloxera pest since its accidental introduction in the late 19th century from America (since then, most vines in Europe have been grafted on to American root stock naturally resistant to Phylloxera)
Two such priceless Vieille Vignes vineyards remain in Bollingers holding today, namely Clos St-Jacques and Clos des Chaudes Terres, both very close to Bollinger headquarters in the village of Ay. They are planted exclusively with Pinot Noir grape vines.
Bollinger Champagne is no stranger to the silver screen, as it has been the champagne of choice for 007 James Bond ever since Ian Fleming wrote the first Bond books over fifty years ago.
History of Bollinger Champagne
In 1882 Joseph Jacob Placide Bollinger aged 19 years from Württemberg, Germany, travelled to France and was given employment by Müller Ruinart a fellow German, who had a year earlier started his own Champagne house having been previously the chef de cave at Veuve Clicquot.
Seven years later Joseph Jacob, or Jacques as he became known, left Müller-Ruinart and joined forces with his friend and colleague at Müller Ruinart, Paul Renaudin and backed by a silent partner the French nobleman the Comte de Villermont, they formed the company Renaudin, Bollinger & Co.
Renaudin left the company a few years after its creation and thus it was Bollinger who undertook the expansion of the domaine with the planting of new vineyards in Verzenay. Later he married Charlotte de Villermont, the Comte de Villermont’s daughter in 1837.
Together the couple had two sons, Georges and Joseph and they took over the management of the champagne house in 1885. Georges and Joseph were responsible for the international development of Bollinger and were awarded a Royal Warrant by the Prince of Wales. In 1901, Georges is awarded a Royal Warrant by King Edward VII and again in 1910 by King George VII and Queen Mary.
In 1918 Georges dies and his son Jacques (1893-1941) aged 25 years, takes over following a career as a pilot flying a Renault powered Falman bi-plane in the Aéronautique Militaire (French Air Corps) during WWI. He was awarded the Legion d’Honneur medal and Croix de Guerre aged 24.
War came again to the Champagne region and in 1940 the Germans requisition the Bollinger home and force the family out (during which time they take 178,000 bottles of Champagne). In 1941 Jacques Bollinger dies during the Nazi occupation and Elizabeth ‘Lily’ Law de Lauriston Boubers (1899-1977, married to Jacques in November 1923), takes over ( her famous quotation above).
On August the 10th 1944, Bollinger’s properties are heavily damaged when a third of the village of Ay is destroyed by Allied bombardments to destroy German munitions, but on August 22, General Patton’s U.S. Third Army arrives just in time to stop the retreating German army from dynamiting Bollinger’s cellars and the village. After the war and through to this day, Bollinger thrives producing some of the best Champagne produced.
Special Cuvée (non-vintage): The expression of the Bollinger house style. This classic Champagne blend uses grapes from a given year, with the addition of reserve wines. (Composition: 60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Meunier.)
Grand Année (vintage): When Bollinger believes there is an exceptional harvest, they will produce their prestige Champagne Grand Année (“great vintage”) designed to express the character of the vintage. The house will select the best wines, cru by cru, to produce Grand Année. This Champagne is also available as a Rosé. The wine spends five years on its lees and is aged in bottle under cork, instead of crown seal. (Composition: 65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay)
R.D. (vintage): This blend is a logical extension of the Grand Année blend, taken further by extending the aging on lees. R.D. spends eight years on its lees, and is also, like the Grand Année, aged under cork, not crown seal. R.D. is a registered trademark of Bollinger which stands for récemment dégorgé (“recently disgorged”).
Vieille Vignes Françaises (vintage): Regarded as Bollinger’s prestige cuvee, this blanc de noirs is made in small quantity with wine from two small plots of ungrafted rootstock planted in low density (3000 vines per hectare). The total area of vines used for this rare Champagne is less than half a hectare. The low-density vineyards, consisting of the aforementioned ‘old french vines’ Clos St-Jacques and Chaudes Terres , are severely pruned, and thus produce 35% less juice per vine, creating a “super rich” wine.