“Only the unimaginative can fail to find a reason for drinking champagne.”Oscar Wilde, Irish playwright and novelist

I’ll admit to stating that most don’t enjoy Champagne in a way as to be fair to it. We drink it too cold. Pop, Pour, Fix and Gulp. And if it foams out of the bottle, even better!  I’m not suggesting that it be enjoyed in a white wine glass and that the mousse be allowed to settle a bit in the glass so as to enjoy the wine as a wine with the benefit of some air and without the freshly bubbling  mousse over stimulating and clouding the palate (well, actually, I am).

But I have to concede that Champagne does make every occasion special.  It needn’t be a special occasion. It’s the Champagne itself that elevates the occasion.  Certainly now that the long road of labor has ended in your successful completion of the university’s requirements for a PhD – sure: open the Champagne.  The repair shop calls you to advise the problem with your car is not as serious as what they thought and it will cost much less than what they estimated – sure: wake up from that dream and enjoy a glass.  Or, it’s Sunday. And you’re looking forward to time with the newspaper and making something to eat without you having to eat it behind the steering wheel of your car on your way to work.  Brunch anyone?

I love Champagne.  Its acidity makes it a trusted companion to many foods. A brut can go nicely with oysters on the half shell or just as well with potato chips on movie night at home and you in your pajamas.  Or poached eggs and salmon toast. Or wasabi deviled eggs, or actually so many styles of deviled eggs. Or smoked trout, salmon or other roe over cream cheese and horseradish filled Belgian endive cups. Sushi, sashimi, oh my!

A previous Sunday was so lazy, I used whatever I had. No trips to the grocery. Brunch made from what was on hand and wine from the “cellar”.  That meant quiche Lorraine, fresh fruit, steamed asparagus. That meant Champagne Bollinger special cuvee brut.  On the nose, it’s all clean and fresh. There’s a whisper of clean sea breeze and a note of kelp. The Kimmergian shelf extending into Champagne, comprised of the shells of marine micro-organisms, contributes to a sub-soil of chalk, marl and limestone that gives the wines from Champagne their unique minerality and (for me) salinity on the nose.  On the palate: a meld of citrus-orange and brioche.  Minerality is strong and commanding attention while yet being part of a whole. Apple is dominant. Notes of toasted walnut.

The wine is 60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Meunier. 30% of the juice is aged in used oak barrels of 228-liter size (60.2 gallons) and some (40-year-old) 400 liter casks before blending. It’s rich with no jagged edges; a nice roundness that can only be appreciated by slowing its consumption down after pouring it into your glass.  Bollinger’s own vineyards are the source of over 60% of their production which emphasizes Pinot Noir. And while vintage conditions change with weather, these estate vineyards provide for consistency in location at least, and in the management and harvesting of the vineyards. The wine is matured for 30-36 months on the lees with the final blend consisting of 40% to 50% of reserve wines and 5-10% of those reserve wines being 5-15 years in age and having been kept in magnums, instead of stainless or cask, under cork. Bollinger has more than 750,000 reserve magnums stored and it is this reserve wine that contributes to notes of dried fruit (apricot) that adds to the complexity of their Special Cuvee. Of the Chardonnay used in their Special Cuvee, 90% comes from premier and grand cru vineyards in the Cotes des Blancs.

This is labor intensive made Champagne with other tasters commenting on notes of peaches and pear, crème brulee and candied Meyer lemon zest and hazel nuts. It is the purest expression of Bollinger’s house style and, I think, will even get better with 1-2 years aging in your cellar. Its balance of creaminess and tart-crisp acidity is Wallenda-like.  What a pity to Pop, Pour, Fizz and Gulp. But with a little time in the glass, what a reward!  Be imaginative and think of your own reason to pair it with something – and make that something something special.

……... Jim

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Imported By:               Terlato Wines International
ALC:                           12%
Style:                           Brut
Dosage:                       8-9 grams per liter
ARP                            $57. (U.S.)
James Suckling:          92 Points
Wine & Spirits Mag:  93 Points
Wine Spectator:          93 Points

Note:   Full disclosure requires I admit to having a built-in, incontrollable preference for Blanc de Blanc, 100% Chardonnay.  You too will have a preference and that may include Blanc de Noir or sparkling wines, or Champagne other than a brut style, or Prosecco or still another form of “bubbly”.    

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