x
  • Country ranking ?

    1 846
  • Producer ranking ?

    110
  • Decanting time

    15min
  • When to drink

    Now
  • Food Pairing

    Seafood, Salads & Consommes

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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 2012

The next most exceptional vintage since 2008. A truly difficult growing season saw severe frosts in the winter. March brought warmth but early budbreak made the vines vulnerable to spring frosts. Overall, the early growing season was wet, and mildew became a serious issue. However, conditions improved dramatically in the later summer months. An August heatwave resulted in a rapid accumulation of sugar, but fortunately the nights remained cool, which helped to preserve acidity. Although yields were low (averaging at 9,210 kg/ha) due to frost, hail and disease early in the season, the 2012 harvest was exemplary in its maturity, acidity and grape health. A rare high acid, high sugar September harvest with impeccable concentration of flavour and refreshing vibrancy. Pinot Noir is the superstar of the vintage, though Pinot Meunier excelled too. A vintage that promises great longevity for the finest cuvées, it was widely declared by producers. However, Krug decided to invest in its reserve wines on this great year, and no Vintage was produced. The quality of 2012 is universally high, with the greatest releases so far including Louis Roederer Cristal and Cristal Rosé, Bollinger La Grande Année and La Grande Année Rosé, as well as Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Rosé.

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Latest Pro-tasting notes

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Written Notes

Unique flavors for a Champagne with dried fruits, Turkish delight and pate de fruit. Hazelnuts and sweet almonds. Medium-bodied with tiny bubbles. Flowers, chamomile, mineral, and dried tea. 2,300 bottles made from two parcels of pinot noir, Les Chaudes Terres and Clos St Jacques, next to the winery and growing on their on roots. Drink now.

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Information

Origin

Ay, Champagne

Other wines from this producer

B13 Blanc de Noirs

Bollinger Collection

Bollinger Special Cuvée

Coteaux Champenois La Côte aux Enfants

La Côte aux Enfants

La Grande Année

La Grande Année rosé

PN TX 17

PN VZ15

PNVZ16

R.D. Bollinger

RD Collection

Rosé

Special Cuvée

Verzenay Réserve

Vieilles Vignes Francaises Collection

Vins Clairs Cramant Vinifié en Fût

Vintage Champagne

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