x
  • Country ranking ?

    795
  • Producer ranking ?

    15
  • Decanting time

    No
  • When to drink

    2020-2035
  • Food Pairing

    Seafood, Salads & Consommes

The Story

Destroyed at the dawn of the 20th century by the infamous phylloxera vastatrix, all the Champagne region’s vines had to be replanted with American rootstocks that were resistant to the destructive insect.

All of them? Not quite... In Aÿ, two Bollinger plots classified Grand cru, the “Chaudes Terres” and “Clos St Jacques”, were miraculously spared by the phylloxera. From these vines cultivated using traditional methods, planted “en foule” (without any visible order) according to the provignage method, and worked by hand, is crafted the Vieilles Vignes Françaises cuvée: a Blanc de Noirs matured in the cellar for at least five years, with a cork stopper and then disgorged by hand. Vieilles Vignes Françaises is a confidential production of a few thousand bottles, an exceptional and extremely rare wine, with a memory of bygone days; a symbol, an extraordinary, evocative and moving legacy.

 

Bathed in golden morning sun of Champagne, three diminutive Pinot Noir plots are under the exacting scrutiny of vineyard workers. The plots, surrounded by stone walls, have been given special attention for over one hundred years. These are the only ungrafted vines in nearly all of Champagne that have managed to escape the ravages of phylloxera decade after decade. It is on this morning that the vineyard workers have discovered a fateful problem on the 16-are Croix Rouge plantation in the village of Bouzy. The year is 2004—phylloxera has landed.

“It was over in the blink of an eye. Right when we found out that phylloxera had hit us, it only took a couple of weeks before everything was gone. There wasn’t a thing we could do,” recalls Bollinger’s Christian Dennis.

Champagne Bollinger has cared for the vines on these three plots with an extraordinary passion since 1969. Renowned English wine author Cyril Ray was the guest of Madame Lily Bollinger when he recorded the history of the Bollinger Champagne house in 1968. His attention was drawn to these exceptional plots and the truly unique character of the wines they produced. At his urging, Lily Bollinger decided to produce wines from these plots under her own name. The 1969 vintage produced in honour of Madame Bollinger’s 70th birthday was released in 1974. The first actually commercial vintage was released in 1970. This ‘museum wine’ instantly became a favourite among collectors and a much-desired rarity, so seldom encountered in a lifetime.

Bollinger is one of only a handful of the remaining family-owned prestige champagne houses. Founded in 1829, Bollinger attained legendary status in its pursuit of perfection: its renowned Charter of Ethics and Quality was published in 1992 by Christian Bizot and Ghislain de Montgolfier, when the syndicate of Grand Marque houses was not ready to accept the stringent criteria as a guideline for all houses. Bollinger decided to stick with the Charter and its own values, which respect not only quality, but also family, the region and tradition. In an age of increasing champagne production and giant champagne houses, Bollinger has been able to keep its scale small. Export manager Philippe Menguy explains:


“Every year we produce two million bottles of champagne, even though we could sell four million. We have 12 million bottles in our cellars, which is a six-year inventory. We own and cultivate a majority of our grape needs, so we’re not dependent on purchased grapes.”

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Vintage 1996

Bathed in golden morning sun of Champagne, three diminutive Pinot Noir plots are under the exacting scrutiny of vineyard workers. The plots, surrounded by stone walls, have been given special attention for over one hundred years. These are the only ungrafted vines in nearly all of Champagne that have managed to escape the ravages of phylloxera decade after decade. It is on this morning that the vineyard workers have discovered a fateful problem on the 16-are Croix Rouge plantation in the village of Bouzy. The year is 2004—phylloxera has landed.

“It was over in the blink of an eye. Right when we found out that phylloxera had hit us, it only took a couple of weeks before everything was gone. There wasn’t a thing we could do,” recalls Bollinger’s Christian Dennis.

Champagne Bollinger has cared for the vines on these three plots with an extraordinary passion since 1969. Renowned English wine author Cyril Ray was the guest of Madame Lily Bollinger when he recorded the history of the Bollinger Champagne house in 1968. His attention was drawn to these exceptional plots and the truly unique character of the wines they produced. At his urging, Lily Bollinger decided to produce wines from these plots under her own name. The 1969 vintage produced in honour of Madame Bollinger’s 70th birthday was released in 1974. The first actually commercial vintage was released in 1970. This ‘museum wine’ instantly became a favourite among collectors and a much-desired rarity, so seldom encountered in a lifetime.

Bollinger is one of only a handful of the remaining family-owned prestige champagne houses. Founded in 1829, Bollinger attained legendary status in its pursuit of perfection: its renowned Charter of Ethics and Quality was published in 1992 by Christian Bizot and Ghislain de Montgolfier, when the syndicate of Grand Marque houses was not ready to accept the stringent criteria as a guideline for all houses. Bollinger decided to stick with the Charter and its own values, which respect not only quality, but also family, the region and tradition. In an age of increasing champagne production and giant champagne houses, Bollinger has been able to keep its scale small. Export manager Philippe Menguy explains:
“Every year we produce two million bottles of champagne, even though we could sell four million. We have 12 million bottles in our cellars, which is a six-year inventory. We own and cultivate a majority of our grape needs, so we’re not dependent on purchased grapes.”

Read more
Close

Latest Pro-tasting notes

15 tasting notes

Tasting note

color

Light

ending

Long and Lingering

flavors

Smoky and Mineral

nose

Fresh, Ripe and Refined

recommend

Yes

taste

Balanced, Complex and Rich

Written Notes

Just as expected: a monumental wine experience! The wine belongs to the select few that behave with such evident, obvious authority that commentary and comparison feel superfluous. Still, to me the '90 is its closest cousin, with its vigor and velvety, young creaminess. Deep golden hue with extremely small bubbles that slowly make their way up through the glass. The bouquet is mute, tight, and powerful, like a distant rumbling thunderstorm. The palate is met by an oily, creamy essence of dark fruit and licorice. Long and wide as an American highway. A complete Champagne in its make-up. Drink it soon or wait ten years for the next phase. There's a great risk that it'll go hide in a tunnel for a few years—the second bottle I opened six months after launching already showed signs of heading into that tunnel.
  • 98p
The other Blancs de Noir on official tap was a 1996 Bollinger Vieilles Vignes Francaises, which had the most exotic nose so far and ‘a lot of bread’ per BB, but it was not close to the Hilaire. Its bread aromas came across as soaked in some sort of almond syrup. Yeasty and toasty, there were lots of nut and vitamin flavors and outstanding race and zest here along with a tangy finish. For some reason, it was the only one of the younger bubblies that I didn’t see improving in overall quality, but that does not mean it will not develop aromatically and stylistically; I just think it will always be
  • 95p
This vintage has been generally assessed potentially as the best vintage of the century together with 1955 and 1928. The winter was cold and dry with some frost occurring still in mid April. The extensive warm and dry summer was interrupted by rainstorms in mid August. The weather improved in September with dry and sunny conditions. The days remained warm and the cool nights guaranteed ideal acid levels in the grapes. This 100 percent Pinot Noir wine derives from rare ungrafted pre-phylloxera vines from three small vineyards owned by Bollinger. The vineyards cover slightly less than 0,6 hectares. Vineyards are nursed with ancient methods and vinification relies on ageing in 205 litres small oak barrels. After the second fermentation the wine was aged for five years before disgorging. In 1996 total production was 2,600 bottles. Wine holds 7-9 grams residual sugar. This vintage was launched with a new label designed by an Englishman Lewis Moberly aimed to reflect the same spirit as Bollinger R.D. Moderately pale, straw yellow colour with lively bubbles. Really fresh and opulent nose offers ripe apple aromas combined with smoke and hints of wild red berries and depth from yeastiness. Rich and intense medium-bodied palate with crisp acidity and creamy mousse. Touch of smokiness and lovely yeastiness adds texture and complexity to the vivid freshness of apples and red berries. Long lingering mineral finish with firmness and power expressing the potential of the wine. Wine will be moving on to its second phase within next five years showing more tertiary flavours and will develop beneficially for at least another 15 years. Nevertheless, the wine delivers enormous pleasure already now with its youthful energy and vibrancy.
  • 95p

Information

Origin

Ay, Champagne

Other wines from this producer

Bollinger Special Cuvée

La Côte aux Enfants

La Grande Année

La Grande Année rosé

R.D. Bollinger

Rosé

Special Cuvée

Vins Clairs Cramant Vinifié en Fût

Vintage Champagne

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users. or to see wine moments from your world.

98p
 Richard Juhlin / The number One champagne expert in the world, Pro (Sweden)  tasted  Vieilles Vignes Françaises 1996  ( Bollinger )

"Just as expected: a monumental wine experience! The wine belongs to the select few that behave with such evident, obvious authority that commentary and comparison feel superfluous. Still, to me the '90 is its closest cousin, with its vigor and velvety, young creaminess. Deep golden hue with extremely small bubbles that slowly make their way up through the glass. The bouquet is mute, tight, and powerful, like a distant rumbling thunderstorm. The palate is met by an oily, creamy essence of dark fruit and licorice. Long and wide as an American highway. A complete Champagne in its make-up. Drink it soon or wait ten years for the next phase. There's a great risk that it'll go hide in a tunnel for a few years—the second bottle I opened six months after launching already showed signs of heading into that tunnel."

1y 5m ago

99p
 Björnstierne Antonson / sommelier, Pro (Sweden)  tasted  Vieilles Vignes Françaises 1996  ( Bollinger )

"Vieilles Vignes Françaises är Bollingers ikoniska super-lyx cuvée (ytterliggare ett begrepp när lyx och cuvée préstige inte räcker till … ) Årgångsvinet tillhör de bästa i området, men frågan är om inte det fantastiskt sällsynta vinet Vieilles Vignes Françaises når ännu högre höjder. Ingen annan champagne kan visa upp en sådan rikedom. Den första VVF som jag drack är fortfarande min största favorit! Klassiker från en stor årgång. Inte annat än att bli oerhört imponerad. För det är verkligen så att det lilla magiska huset i Aÿ haft en central plats i mitt hjärta enda sedan den dagen jag provade mitt första glas av Bollinger. Som en kram från en kär gammal vän, tryggt & bekant på samma gång!
"

1y 7m ago

95p
 John Kapon / CEO / Ackerr Merrall & Condit, Pro (United States)  tasted  Vieilles Vignes Françaises 1996  ( Bollinger )

"The other Blancs de Noir on official tap was a 1996 Bollinger Vieilles Vignes Francaises, which had the most exotic nose so far and ‘a lot of bread’ per BB, but it was not close to the Hilaire. Its bread aromas came across as soaked in some sort of almond syrup. Yeasty and toasty, there were lots of nut and vitamin flavors and outstanding race and zest here along with a tangy finish. For some reason, it was the only one of the younger bubblies that I didn’t see improving in overall quality, but that does not mean it will not develop aromatically and stylistically; I just think it will always be"

1y 10m ago

95p
 Pekka Nuikki / Founder of the Fine Wine Magazines, Pro (Finland)  tasted  Vieilles Vignes Françaises 1996  ( Bollinger )

"This vintage has been generally assessed potentially as the best vintage of the century together with 1955 and 1928. The winter was cold and dry with some frost occurring still in mid April. The extensive warm and dry summer was interrupted by rainstorms in mid August. The weather improved in September with dry and sunny conditions. The days remained warm and the cool nights guaranteed ideal acid levels in the grapes. This 100 percent Pinot Noir wine derives from rare ungrafted pre-phylloxera vines from three small vineyards owned by Bollinger. The vineyards cover slightly less than 0,6 hectares. Vineyards are nursed with ancient methods and vinification relies on ageing in 205 litres small oak barrels. After the second fermentation the wine was aged for five years before disgorging. In 1996 total production was 2,600 bottles. Wine holds 7-9 grams residual sugar. This vintage was launched with a new label designed by an Englishman Lewis Moberly aimed to reflect the same spirit as Bollinger R.D.
Moderately pale, straw yellow colour with lively bubbles. Really fresh and opulent nose offers ripe apple aromas combined with smoke and hints of wild red berries and depth from yeastiness. Rich and intense medium-bodied palate with crisp acidity and creamy mousse. Touch of smokiness and lovely yeastiness adds texture and complexity to the vivid freshness of apples and red berries. Long lingering mineral finish with firmness and power expressing the potential of the wine. Wine will be moving on to its second phase within next five years showing more tertiary flavours and will develop beneficially for at least another 15 years. Nevertheless, the wine delivers enormous pleasure already now with its youthful energy and vibrancy.
"

4y 9m ago

90p
 Essi Avellan MW / Editor of the Champagne magazine, Pro (Finland)  tasted  Vieilles Vignes Françaises 1996  ( Bollinger )

"Deep golden-peachy colour. Oxidised, sherry-like nose, very starnage, red fruit. Full sherry, not very good, concentrated an cloying. But luckily not mushroomy. Over developed., overripe.punssi barrel, ei hyvä. Yksiulotteinen"

4y 10m ago

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