Location: Aÿ, Valle de la Marne
When was Bollinger founded? 1829
Who founded Bollinger?
Athanase de Villermont, Joseph Bollinger, and Paul Renaudin, founded Bollinger, and the Bollinger family have carried it through multiple generations.
Bollinger grows Champagne grapes on 179 hectares across 7 vineyards, 85% of which are Grand or Premier Cru vineyards.
Pinot Noir is grown on 104 hectares of vineyards in Aÿ and Avenay in Vallée de la Marne and Tauxières, Louvois and Verzenay near the Montagne de Reims. These are all Grand or Premier Cru vineyards.
Pinot noir makes up 60% of Bollinger’s production. Bollinger uses the pinot noir from Verzenay as a key component in the signature taste of their Champagne, as it adds a complexity and salinity to the wine.
Bollinger also grows pinot noir on two special plots in Aÿ that have never had phylloxera, which is rare for the region. These are two of only fifteen clos in Champagne – Clos Saint-Jacques (21 ares) and Chaudes Terres (15 ares).
As these vines have never been grafted, special care is taken to maintain and preserve them. Bollinger makes their prestigious Vieilles Vignes Françaises Blancs de Noir cuvée from the grapes harvested from these Grand Cru clos.
La Côte aux Enfants is another special vineyard plot outside Aÿ, and it’s only 4 hectares of pinot noir. This northwest facing, upper hillside vineyard has a long history of community winemaking, and Bollinger has experimented with more environmentally friendly growing practices on it. As a result, Bollinger produces a single vineyard Champagne of pinot noir as well as a still wine from these grapes using whole cluster fermentation.
Chardonnay is grown in Cuis on the Côte des Blancs, a Premier Cru village. These vineyards have belonged to Bollinger from the start and now total 18 hectares of Chardonnay growing with varied solar exposure. Chardonnay is essential to adding minerality and citrus or floral notes to Bollinger’s Champagne blends.
Pinot Meunier is grown on 24 hectares in Champvoisy, Passy-Grigny and Venteuil in the Vallée de la Marne, a wine growing region known for its clay soil. Pinot Meunier rounds out the Champagne blends at Bollinger, specifically the Bollinger Rosé and Special Cuveé.
Petit Meslier is grown on a small plot in Cuis on the Côte des Blancs. This is an ancient white varietal Bollinger has been experimenting with since 2011.
Bollinger’s vineyards are planted en foule, which is more densely planted than many commercial vineyard rows. There is no grafting, and all the vineyard work is done by hand.
Bollinger does not use herbicides in any of its vineyards and holds a Sustainable Viticulture in Champagne certification. In addition, the winery has further ambitions to continue growing the biodiversity of their land and replace petrochemical products with those that are biosourced.
Winemaker: The Champagne house has been operating on teamwork and shared expertise over the years. Gilles Descotes is Chef de Cave and Denis Bunner is Deputy Chef de Cave at Bollinger.
Descotes’ grandfather had a vineyard in Oger, so he grew up working in the vineyards. After studying agronomy in Paris and winemaking in Montpellier, he returned to Champagne to manage the vineyards at Vranken Pommery. Next, Descotes was vineyard manager at Bollinger before becoming its cellar master.
Cooper: Bollinger also has an in-house cooper, Gaël Chaunut, who maintains over 4000 barrels, some over 100 years old. Up until the 1960s, barrels were made from the oak trees on Bollinger’s property. Bollinger is the only Champagne house with an in-house cooper.
Winemaking Techniques: Most cuveés are aged twice as long as required. Oak aging is central to Bollinger’s Champagne making style, as is extended time on the lees. Bollinger still employs the method of hand riddling.
Bollinger crafts 8 different cuveés and a still wine of single vineyard pinot noir. They are aged in varying lengths on the lees and in the cellar. Bollinger focuses heavily on the pinot noir grape for much of their Champagne.
Special Cuveé – 85% Grand and Premier crus; 60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and 15% Meunier. It is aged in the cellar for over twice the required amount of time and contains 7-8 grams per liter dosage.
Bollinger Rosé – 85% Grand and Premier crus. It is made up of 62% Pinot Noir, 24% Chardonnay and 14% Meunier. About 5-6% of red wine is blended for a unique depth.
La Grand Anneé – Made from only Grand and Premier Cru grapes, and only selected vintages are made into La Grand Anneé. This Champagne is vinified completely in oak barrels, aged on the lees for an extended time, and aged in the cellar for 10 years. It is also riddled and disgorged by hand.
La Grand Anneé Rosé – Also made from only Grand and Premier Cru grapes, plus the addition of some red wine from Côtes aux Enfants. La Grand Anneé Rosé is another vintage Champagne that is only produced when the grapes are of exceptional quality. It is also vinified in oak barrels and hand riddled and hand disgorged.
Bollinger RD – RD stands for “recently disgorged.” The concept of R.D. Champagne is to age the Champagne for an extended time on the lees, then release it right after disgorgement in the style of an extra brut. Tasting these wines right after disgorgement offers a unique freshness in the Champagne.
Bollinger PN – Bollinger uses pinot noir as the predominant grape varietal in most of its Champagnes. The PN line is a special cuveé made from selecting one cru and vintage of pinot noir, to highlight the versatility of this grape. Each release is a unique expression of this goal, and highlights the creativity and dedication Bollinger pours into pinot noir.
La Côte aux Enfants – A single vineyard Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs from the hills above Aÿ, La Côte aux Enfants Champagne, 100% pinot noir
Vieilles Vignes Françaises – This Blanc de Noirs (100% pinot noir) Champagne is made from two clos that never got phylloxera. It’s aged in the cellar for at least 5 years, and all farming practices, riddling, and disgorgement are performed by hand. This special Champagne represents the history of Bollinger and the Champagne region with the preservation of these special vines.
La Côte aux Enfants Pinot Noir – This single vineyard still wine is made in a Burgundian style, whole cluster fermentation in small oak barrels, and Bollinger only makes it in the years the grapes are of exceptional quality. 100% pinot noir.
Can you visit Bollinger for a tasting and/or tour?
Yes, you can visit Bollinger for a tasting and tour by appointment only. They also have special events for club members throughout the year. Contact information at champagne-bollinger.com