The range of Champagne Bollinger is now clearly divided into two parts. Firstly, the “classic” line, consisting of the Non-Vintages Special Cuvée and Rosé, the Grand Années Blanc and Rosé and finally the R.D., most recently presented this year as the 2008 vintage. And finally, a line of pure Pinot Noir Champagnes, which was gradually formed in 1974, 2020 and 2022. 1974 saw the launch of the 1969, the premium vintage of the legendary Vieilles Vignes Françaises. In 2020, Bollinger presented the VZ15 PN as the start of a series of terroir-driven Blancs de Noirs. And in 2022, the first vintage of the single-vineyard Champagne La Côte aux Enfants saw the light of day. Introduced as a trio for the first time last year in Aÿ (my report here), German importer Grand Cru Select presented the subsequent versions in Berlin in November 2023.
PN AYC 18
After a glass of Special Cuvée to calibrate the palate, PN AYC 18 kicks things off. To say that the name takes some getting used to would be an understatement. Nevertheless, the 4th version of the series – after PN VZ 15, PN VZ 16 and PN TX 17 – should now be more or less established. As a reminder. Although this cuvée is a 100% Pinot Noir, it does not come from one place and not from one vintage. The letter combination and number refer to the main components. In this case, that means the 2018 base vintage on the one hand, and the commune of Aÿ on the other, after Verzenay (VZ) and Tauxières (TX) in the case of its predecessors. Remarkably, Bollinger only emphasises its signature commune in the 4th version. The wines that dominate here are complemented by Crus such as Tauxières and Verzenay. In terms of vintages, the blend consists of the 2018 vintage (50 %) as well as reserve wines from 2017 and 2016 (25 %) and 2009 magnums from Aÿ (25 %).
Aÿ is not only the home of the Maison. Its grapes ripened in southern exposures also form the backbone of many of its legendary cuvées. The fact that Aÿ is now in the spotlight with the 2018 vintage is at first surprising. The heat of the summer even surpassed that of 2003. But that is precisely the advantage of the white chalk of this Grand Cru. It is able to conserve moisture like a sponge. And as open and powerful as the PN AYC 18 (dég. 1/23) is in the Bollinger style, its striking acidity makes it appear fresh and lively. With an almost pale pink colour, apple, mandarins and plums dominate, along with some hazelnuts and vanilla (94 p.). At the end of the tasting, the predecessor PN TX 17 followed in the magnum. The Champagne has developed phenomenally and once again shows the superiority of the larger format. Very refined flavours, complex and long-lasting, currently in top form (95 P.).
La Côte aux Enfants 2013
This was followed by La Côte aux Enfants 2013 (dég. 3/22), the house’s iconic parcel, also from Aÿ. After its predecessor, 2013 was only the second version to be vinified by Bollinger as a Champagne and not as a still wine. As Aÿ rouge of the same name, a rare Coteaux Champenois has been produced from the southern parcels of this monopole since the 1980s. The grapes from the 2-hectare north-west slope went mainly in La Grande Année Rosé (more here). The late-ripening 2013 vintage has now produced a cooler but also enormously precise La Côte aux Enfants compared to the rich, generous 2012. Deep golden in colour, with apples, peaches, almonds and subtle toast on the nose. Fine, invigorating mousse and a very luxurious texture overall, with wonderful freshness, a long salty finish and perfectly measured dosage of 4gr/litre (97 P.). Only a small contingent goes to Germany, at an unfortunately painful retail price.
Vieilles Vignes Françaises 2012
The final wine was the legendary Cuvée Vieilles Vignes Françaises. It now only comes from two tiny parcels walled off as Clos, Chaudes Terres and Clos St. Jacques, right next to the Bollinger estate in Aÿ. Coming from ungrafted vines, they are reminiscent of Champagne before the phylloxera catastrophe in the 19th century and thus embody a precious botanical and cultural heritage of the region. As more and more vines are currently dying off due to phylloxera, production is in danger of drying up soon. Interestingly, Bollinger is taking a step backwards with the current version. Last year, the Maison presented the ultra-precise 2013 as the successor to the very vinous, ripe 2010 vintage. 2012 followed, and here the house has managed to square the circle, so to speak: Not an iota less pure and concise, but a touch more generous and, so to speak, even more sculptured and defined. A miracle of elegance (98 P.). 2,193 bottles produced, 4gr/litre dosage.
© of the images: Stefan Pegatzky / Time Tunnel images