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A truly great Bollinger by every measure, blessed with incredible longevity, and grand testimony to the wizardry of this house to draw out all the glories of endurance and elegance from a less than simple season. - Tyson Stelzer, 97 Points
La Grande Année is the very embodiment of an exceptional, timeless champagne. Artisanal savoir-faire is at the heart of its production. One such artisanal technique is vinification, which takes place in oak barrels that are around 20 years old. This helps the wine develop complex aromas, and, thanks to micro-oxygenation, lends an extraordinary ageing potential. These 4,000 barrels are housed and maintained in the Champagne Bollinger Cooperage. Bollinger is the only Champagne House to have a resident cooper.
All Bollinger vintages, including La Grande Année, are riddled and disgorged entirely by hand, a process which takes place after the wine has long been aged on its lees, in bottles sealed with cork. These rigorous, artisanal techniques contribute to making La Grande Année a truly hand-crafted wine.
The 2014 vintage was the product of a year of mixed fortunes. A rainy autumn and winter gave way to two parched, sunny months, of which June was the sunniest in 50 years. Then there was summer, August in particular, when we saw especially cold weather.
All Bollinger vineyards began harvesting at the same time, on the 15th of September, and finished just nine days later. This is notably brief as harvesting usually takes two weeks. Owing in part to the fine weather in September, the quality of the grape was maintained, perfectly balancing the maturity and acidity of the grape musts.
This year was all about alternating weather patterns. A particularly wet winter gave way to a warm and dry spring. May saw some rain, and even though late June-brought about a minor heatwave, the remainder of the summer was moist and murky. Disease pressure was lifted but once again fine, hot September weather was able to save and concentrate the crop. A large crop (11,553 kg/ha) was picked from September 8th onwards. The year's biggest problem was the sour rot caused by the drosophila suzukii flies. It, and the challenging weather, demanded plenty of care and selection work in the vineyards. The results are variable. The year was especially demanding for Pinot Meunier from the Vallée de la Marne, which received a lot of rainfall and was troubled by both mildew and sour rot. With an average potential alcohol of 10.0% and total acidity of 8.3 g/l, 2014 looks good on paper and so too in the glass, despite its challenges. The successful wines come with attractive fruit, lovely vibrant acidity and an overt easiness to them.