The use of oak barrels in aging Champagne has a storied past. With modernization of wineries beginning in the 1940s and 50s, gone away was oak in preference for the more modern concrete and stainless-steel vessels. However, Bollinger held close its tradition in using small oak barrels to uphold the quality and prestige of their wine. Tom Hewson writes for Decanter about the reemergence of oak both for the flavor and preservation of the wines in Champagne since the turn of the 21st century.
In this new era of oak barreling, it’s not always about adding oak’s characteristic vanilla and sweet spiced flavors and aromas. Oak provides many benefits to Champagne, helping to oxidize bitter tasting compounds in ripe wines, as well as bringing freshness while blocking malolactic fermentation. Hewson explains, “No matter the stylistic choice, one this is clear; what was once the norm, then a niche, and even perhaps a novelty, is today none of the above. If Lily Bollinger were alive today, she would no doubt be content to see Champagne’s traditional oak vinification alive and well.”
Decanter Bollinger 8-15-23