What I'm Drinking - February 2011

By ericg February 1, 2011

Let’s begin this Champagne & Valentines installment with my two favorite quotes about Champagne Bollinger, a wine that almost certainly will have a place in the U.K.’s upcoming royal wedding festivities, as it holds a Royal Warrant, and one that deserves a place in your ice bucket.

“Bolly, darling, Bolly!”

“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 drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it—unless I’m thirsty.”

The first quote was the often-heard refrain of Jennifer Saunders (Edina, aka Eddie) and Joanna Lumley (Patsy), the two exceedingly delicious actors at the heart of Absolutely Fabulous, the sparkling BBC television series that ran from 1992 to 2004 and still is sorely missed. The sight of the glass-fronted cooler in Edina’s kitchen, with rack after rack of Bolly ever ready at hand, filled me with happiness tinged with envy.

The second quote is attributed to Lilly Bollinger, under whose leadership (1941-1971) the house of Bollinger expanded considerably. I’m sorry I wasn’t around to meet her. Her joie de vivre was infectious.

Now, how pricey is the fizz that was James Bond’s fave (at least in the movie version)? Well, it varies. A lot.

The Champagne Bollinger Special Cuvee NV, its cuvee being the signature ultra-reliable, multi-year blend on which a Champagne house’s reputation is built, runs from $44 to about $93 the bottle, depending on when and where you buy it. Pinot noir underpins the Bollinger blend, and at least 80 percent must be Grand or Premier Cru grapes. Its style is elegant, refined and toasty. Your sweetheart will swoon.

Climbing the price ladder, we come to the Grand Année, produced only in harvest years considered by the house to be great vintages. The 2000, for example, goes for somewhere in the range of $110 to $140.

Next up is the R.D. (recently disgorged), which takes the Grand Année a step further, aging the wine from a vintage year on its lees for eight years. The 1997 usually goes for somewhere around $200.

And then there is the Vieille Vignes Françaises, a vintage cuvee blanc de noirs made from low-yield—and therefore more intensely flavored—grapes from two very small vineyards. Only 3,000 to 5,000 bottles are produced in a given year, and each bottle is numbered. The 2000 fetches about $475 to $650—if you can find it.

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