Mon 27 Dec 2010
Technically, and actually legally, the bubbly stuff that’s made in the Champagne region of north-central France is Champagne, and everything else is sparkling wine. The French government frowns upon other countries trespassing upon this sacred name, and the United States of America has signed a trade agreement with France that forbids the use of the name Champagne on bottles of sparkling wine made in this country. A few exceptions were made — lord knows why — for some wineries like Korbel that were grandfathered in.
Definitely the real thing is the Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut, a non-vintage blend of 60 percent pinot noir — pinot noir is the heart of the house of Bollinger — 25 percent chardonnay and 15 percent pinot meunier, a red grape seldom seen outside the Champagne region. Bollinger was founded in 1829; in 2008, Jerome Philipon became managing director, the first time since 1889 that the house was not run by a member of the family. Bollinger, one of the few independent houses in Champagne, also owns the Champagne house of Ayala, Maison Chanson in Burgundy, Langlois-Chateau in the Loire Valley and Delamain in Cognac. The estate is unusual in Champagne in that it ferments and ages its wine in oak barrels.
Bollinger became the supplier of Champagne to the Royal Family of Great Britain in 1884, so you know what will be poured in copious amounts at the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 29, 2011.
Bollinger Special Cuvée displays a radiant medium gold color and a dynamic whirlwind of tiny bubbles. It’s boldly toasty, with notes of acacia, roasted lemon and toffee apple over hints of roasted hazelnuts, quince jam and ginger. This is all about presence and substance, intensity and concentration, about character that verges on dignity. Bollinger Special Cuvée is quite dry, but round and generous and vivacious, richly endowed with spicy, slightly woody overtones and grand reserves of limestone-like minerality. The broad finish lasts and lasts. A great experience. 12 percent alcohol. 8,000 cases imported. Excellent. About $65.
Imported by Terlato Wines International, Lake Bluff, Ill. A sample for review.