From the moment that Athanase de Villermont recognized the great potential of his family estate, the prestigious Maison Bollinger has been synonymous with excellence in Champagne. In 1967, Madame Bollinger introduced a special innovation to the prestigious Maison, and thus the Bollinger R.D. cuvee was born. A truly spectacular Champagne and James Bond’s personal favorite, this “recently disgorged” cuvee never ceases to impress with its unparalleled freshness and exciting complexity. Let’s take a closer look at the 2002 vintage and what makes it one of the most special wines on our Christmas list.
Quick History Lesson: A Story of Family Legacy
The history of this prestigious House of Champagne can be traced back to Athanase de Villermont, a young nobleman and celebrated veteran in the American War of Independence, who inherited his family’s great estate in the region of Ay. As an aristocrat, our protagonist was not permitted to work in the wine trade profession he so adored. Instead he brought together a local man named Paul Renaudin and Joseph Bollinger, a German native who had moved to Champagne to learn about winemaking. Together the three men founded Renaudin-Bollinger & Cie in February of 1829, with Joseph managing sales while Paul focused on winemaking. In 1837, Bollinger married Louise-Charlotte, the daughter of Athanese. For the next century, the estate would be passed from one generation to the next, each adding its own touch to the House’s remarkable winemaking legacy.
In 1923 Elisabeth Bollinger took over the reins, after losing her husband to the war. A hard-working perfectionist and well-traveled businesswoman, Madame Bollinger quickly became the face of the family business and has remained a symbol of the House ever since. In 1967 she launched a special innovation, which gave rise to Bollinger’s signature R.D. cuvee. The year 2008 saw the first non-family-member Chairman of the House, Jerome Philipon. With Philipon at its helm, the House continues its aim to balance modernity and tradition, blending new technologies with almost 2 centuries of winemaking know-how in Champagne.
A Word About Vines
The Bollinger estate spans 165 hectares, planted with 85% Grand Cru and Premier Cru vines over seven vineyards. The vineyards of Ay, Avenay, Tauxieres, Louvois and Verzenay are planted with Pinot Noir, while Cuis is dedicated to Chardonnay and Champvoisy to Pinot Meunier. In total, the very demanding Pinot Noir represents 60% of the House’s own vineyard yield. The beautiful structure, complexity and power for which the cuvees of Bollinger are known can be attributed, in large part, to this singular variety. The various Vineyard Managers adapt the overarching guidelines provided by the Vineyard Director to suit the unique characteristics of each vineyard plot. For example, prairie flowers are grown alongside the vines in the vineyard of Ay, while wheat is sown in Verzenay. This results in the best possible expression of the terroir in each wine, which are then blended to produce the complex cuvees for which the House is so well known.
A Champagne “Recemment Degorge”
To many avid Champagne enthusiasts, Bollinger’s R.D. cuvee has become the hallmark of the prestigious Maison. But what exactly does this enigmatic acronym stand for? “R.D,” (recemment degorge) along with L.D. (late-disgorged) and D.T. (degorgement tardive) all refer to a Champagne that has been left to age on its lees for longer than usual. As a wine bound for sparkling undergoes secondary fermentation in a sealed bottle, the yeast inside gradually dies and settles at the bottom. Disgorgement is the process during which these dead yeast cells (lees) are removed and the bottle is topped with dosage. The longer the wine has to interact with the lees, the more pronounced and complex its flavors will become. Recently disgorged Champagnes will also taste fresher because of limited exposure to oxygen. It was exactly this observation that inspired Madame Bollinger to create the R.D., to offer something special to the House’s most discerning customers. In the case of Bollinger, “R.D.” means the following: while the La Grande Annee vintage cuvee is usually released after seven to eight years of aging on lees, the 2002 R.D. is released around 5 years after. That means 12-13 years of lees-aging in total!
James Bond’s Favorite?
Indeed. The elegant Champagnes of Maison Bollinger have been featured in almost every Bond movie since Live and Let Die, starting with the bottle that Bond (Roger Moore) orders, slightly chilled, to his San Moniquan Hotel room. Bollinger R.D. specifically makes several appearances – during the exploding space station scene in Moonraker (1979), at Bond’s hotel suite at the Hotel El Presidente in Licence to Kill (1989), and at Harrod’s with General Koskov in The Living Daylights (1987). It seems the bond between 007 and this great Champagne House is one that cannot be broken, and we understand why.
Bollinger R.D. Recemment Degorge 2002
The R.D. cuvee of Maison Bollinger, James Bond’s personal favorite Champagne, is the house’s ultra-prestige wine. And the secret of the R.D. is time. Back in the year 1952, Madame Bollinger introduced this spectacular innovation, and through it created a wine with a very special legacy. Time is indeed the key ingredient, as this cuvee extends its stay and reaches, in the house’s cellars, the optimal expression of what the terroir has provided and the winemaker magnified.
The 2002 vintage of Bollinger R.D. blends 60% Pinot Noir with 40% Chardonnay from 23 crus, 71% of which are Grand Crus and 29% Premier Crus. Following fermentation exclusively in oak barrel, the wines are matured for an extremely long period of time, which is more than three times longer than what the appellation requires. The very low dosage of 3-4 grams per liter clears the way for a full expression of what the terroir has provided and the winemaker magnified.
At the tasting, this wine flows into the glass, with its superb, creamy mousse presenting a golden robe with subtle reflections. On the nose, it expresses intense aromas of ripe, stewed fruit – most notably, quince – along with discreet touches of honey and brioche. Secondary aromas follow with grilled touches and cocoa, as well as fragrances of star anise and nutmeg spice. The attack is juicy on the palate with a perfectly balanced power and great persistence. This is a rich and vastly concentrated cuvee, features to be attributed to the late-disgorgement technique of its production. The finish reveals magical minerality with hints of lemon and beautifully subtle bitters at the very end. Enjoy with rich and creamy dishes like risotto with mushrooms and truffles or Swiss Gruyere cheese. Serve at a temperature between 8 and 10 °C. While the gorgeous freshness of Bollinger R.D. 2002 can already be enjoyed today, this cuvee also boasts an exceptional ageing potential.Browse the Bollinger R.D. 2002