I never say no to bubbles, so it was a pleasure to attend the recent launch lunch of Bollinger La Grande Année 2008, especially because 2008 is such a legendary vintage for champagne.
The year 2008 had perfect weather conditions in Champagne, a cool-climate growing season with minimum disease risks. The temperature increased in the last few weeks before harvest, resulting in fruits with fine acidity and great concentration. According to Decanter magazine, 2008 is a 5/5 vintage and the wines are real keepers.
La Grande Année 2008 is a blend of grapes from 18 crus (villages), with 71% Pinot Noir and the remainder Chardonnay. It is the vintage with the second-highest amount of Pinot in the blend, just a little less than the 1979 vintage at 75%. True to La Grande Année’s style, the 2008 vintage was fermented in small aged barrels, giving it a round and rich mouthfeel, supported by layers of aromas, from floral to exotic spices, and fresh acidity, thanks to its nine years of ageing.
Bollinger Export Area Manager Bastien Mariani explained that Bollinger is all about craftsmanship and gastronomy. To illustrate this, we were treated to a four-course lunch at the China Clipper at The Peninsula paired with standard-bottle and magnum La Grande Année 2008.
Wine evolves more slowly in larger bottles. The magnum is livelier, while the standard bottle is still fresh but has an earthy undertone. According to Mariani, the magnum complements lighter-flavoured dishes, while the standard bottle is best served with dishes that have a stronger flavour. The magnum paired with langoustine carpaccio was excellent. The standard bottle was paired with roasted quail, which was pleasant, but together with the sauce, it was a touch too powerful, even for this manly James Bond champagne.
Another point that Mariani mentioned is that champagne (or sparkling wine made in the traditional method) has two lives. The fist comes before disgorgement, when the wine develops its complexity. The second life begins after disgorgement, when freshness and acidity come into play. Because of this, Bollinger now puts the disgorgement date on the back label of La Grande Année 2008. A more recently disgorged sparkling wine will be fresher than one that has been disgorged for awhile. So the next time you buy premium champagne for cellaring, it’s best to purchase a bottle with a later disgorgement date, if it’s mentioned on the label.
I haven’t tried a lot of 2008 vintage champagne, but judging from Bollinger La Grande Année 2008 and various reports, 2008 bubbly is certainly worth keeping.
Bollinger is available in Hong Kong at Jebsen Fine Wines.
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