Bollinger La Grande Année 2012: back to back spectacular vintages

A worthy follow up

After the 2008, perhaps the greatest La Grande Année to date, in some ways it makes sense that Bollinger waited until the next great vintage, 2012, to release. That commitment to the very best is, of course, a clear representation of Bollinger’s reputation.  The first review, a terrific 95 Points from the Wine Advocate, testifies to this point.

This wine is typically made of roughly two-thirds Pinot Noir and one-third Chardonnay. It is produced only when the harvest reaches a perfect balance. This wine ferments entirely in oak barrels, and undergoes its second fermentation under cork instead of crown capsule. It’s filled with aromas of honey, gingerbread and cinnamon, and offers a core of pastry and candied orange flavors on the palate.

In 1976, Bollinger Vintage became Grande Année; then, in 1997, “La” Grande Année, a name simple enough to illustrate its exceptional status.  This prestige cuvée made its silver screen debut two years later, in James Bond’s Casino Royale.

The magic in the cellar

Bollinger is legendary for a reason. La Grande Année is vinified entirely in older oak barrels, specifically used 228 liter barrels and 400 liter casks that are up to 40 years old. The wine remains in barrel for 6 months, undergoing both alcoholic and malolactic fermentation in barrel, a point of distinction from the minute remaining producers who do ferment in barrel. The wine is then bottled under cork to undergo its secondary fermentation, rather than crown capsule. As a result, every bottle has to be hand-riddled and hand-disgorged. The wine spent over 9 years on the lees, and has a moderate dosage of 8 grams per liter. Needless to say, this is not an efficient way to produce Champagne. Quality is the only objective.

Champagne Bollinger Barrel Aging

2012: 95 Points Wine Advocate

At Bollinger, only very high quality harvests become a vintage; in 2012, the remarkable maturity of the grapes combined with a phenomenal acidity have produced a wine that is simultaneously full, fresh, and complex.

Wine Advocate – “Showing well, offering up an incipiently complex bouquet of crisp yellow orchard fruit, fresh peach, orange oil, toasted walnuts and dried apricot that’s still quite reserved with less than a year on cork. Full-bodied, deep and muscular, the 2012 is blockier and broader-shouldered than its 2008 predecessor, with a weightier and even more concentrated palate built around a bright spine of acidity, concluding with a chalky finish that carries appreciably dry extract […] A superb effort and obviously built to age.”

Hand Riddling Champagne Bollinger R.D. 2004