Champagne Bollinger | The Art Of Wine Making

Champagne is a small region in the northeast of France and one of the most northern vineyards, famous for its exclusive production of sparkling white wine that bears the area’s name.

The land is unique with a significant amount of chalk and limestone. This soil can swallow a considerable quantity of rain making it ideal to grow grapes for sparkling wine. In the 15th Century, a family settled its roots in Champagne to start developing the art of winemaking passing on this tradition from generation to generation.

But the story began in 1829 when three gentlemen passionate about the world of wine gathered together to build Champagne House Bollinger. Athanase de Villermont, an adventurous young man, inherited an extensive estate from his noble family in the Aÿ area. Envisioning the extraordinary potential of the wines of Champagne, but as an aristocrat forbidden to become involved in a trade, he partnered with Joseph Bollinger and Paul Renaudin giving birth to the firm Renaudin-Bollinger & Cie on February 6, 1829. This trio was a perfect partnership where Joseph, a well-traveled German, brought his expertise in the wine trade, Paul, a local man, was in charge of the cellar and Athanase had founded a champagne house that was to endure through the centuries.

Elizabeth ‘Lily’ Lauriston-Boubers, later known as ‘Lily Bollinger’

Almost a hundred years later, Elizabeth Lauriston-Boubers married Jacques in 1923 becoming Madame Bollinger. She was only 42 when she lost her husband, immediately putting her heart and soul into continuing to develop the winery after him.  Madame Bollinger was an extraordinary businesswoman. She traveled a lot with a vision to combine tradition and innovation, which for Champagne Bollinger became the definition of authenticity. Her core statement was, “If it’s good for the wine, we do it.” Creative and always aiming for perfection, she was the driving force behind the original Bollinger R.D. Cuvee, but most importantly setting up the mindset of Excellence.

Madame Bollinger’s legacy is always present in the House. The estate has 170 hectares (400 acres) planted with 85% of Grand Cru and Premier Cru vines, spread over seven main vineyards; Aÿ, Avenay, Tauxières, Louvois and Verzenay, planted with Pinot Noir, Cuis with Chardonnay and Champvoisy with Pinot Meunier. Pinot Noir represents the primary grape of the House’s vineyard, and it is essential to the production of Bollinger wines causing density, followed by the Chardonnay that gives subtlety and the finesse while Meunier brings out the fruits. These three prominent grapes blended in different proportions are what constitute the champagne.  

The winemaking process of Champagne Bollinger is unique. To have consistency in the taste, they blend different vintages, which are called reserved wine. 60% of the harvest is stored for the future each year, and some of these wines are aged 15 to 25 years using magnums, the perfect format for aging. Due to its ratio of less air and more volume and to a natural cork closure, the wine is oxidized slower, and those magnums of aged wines are getting better year after year: their nickname at Champagne Bollinger is aromatic bombs.

Bollinger Champagne House has 3.500 wood barrels, the most significant block in Champagne. With the use of wood barrels, the aging is further extended, leaving the wine eight months on yeast providing protein, nutrients, and a creamier sensation. All barrels have a barcode that personnel scans to store the information straight to the computerized database integrating the traditional process with new technology.

Today, the House produces seven different wines, vintages and multi-vintage (a mix of different vintages together called non-vintage). The Bollinger Special Cuvée, which is dense and subtle, a fresh Bollinger Rosé, La Grande Année 2007, celebrating an exceptional year, La Grande Année Rosé 2005, which blends a precious wine and a unique vineyard, Bollinger R.D. 2002 represents time, rarity and boldness, Vieilles Vignes Françaises 2006 is the eternal soul of Champagne and finally La Côte aux Enfants 2013, a great red wine from the legendary Aÿ plot.

Madame Elisabeth Bollinger once said, “I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and I drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it, unless I’m thirsty.”

Fermentation barrels at Champagne Bollinger

Champagne Bollinger aims to create a perfect moment, which translates into elegance and excellence to evoke most positive emotions. When tasting Bollinger, first you feel the fruits and freshness, the mix of density and volume overtakes your palate leaving you with a subtle creamy texture from the bubbles.

No wonder, the House was awarded the Royal Warrant as the official supplier to the British Royal Family by Queen Victoria in 1884 and has kept it ever since. Bollinger appeared alongside James Bond in the novel Diamonds Are Forever by Ian Fleming, published in 1956. Her Majesty’s secret servant could only choose the most British of all champagnes!  Ever since Bollinger was featured on screen for the first time in Live and Let Die in 1973, it has been James Bond’s champagne, an essential element in his seductive appeal and a symbol of his oh-so British wit and sophistication.

Anyone interested in exploring the complexity of winemaking is welcome to visit the Maison Bollinger in France. Five years ago they discovered a real treasure hidden in the caves, full bottles of Champagne Bollinger dating back to 1939. The Galerie 1829 showcases the red wine collection, the House’s oldest wines pre-dating 1952, the vintage Bollinger R.D. collection, created in 1952, and the vintage Vieilles Vignes Françaises collection developed since 1969. La Réserve features over 3,000 old reserve magnums which represent the real hallmark of Champagne Bollinger. Enhancing blends with their rich and powerful aromas, the continuity of the Special Cuvée style since 1892 has been guaranteed.

Undoubtedly, the key to Bollinger’s triumph is independence, allowing them to keep creating wine within the quality they want.  One of the few family-owned champagne houses left in the world that maintains its core values intact. An inspiring story that goes beyond opportunities. A successful example created by a family that believes in its own vision of authenticity and excellence.
Photography by Champagne Bollinger