Crafting Perfection: Bollinger's Artistry with La Cote aux Enfants
In the world of champagne, where every bubble is a testament to tradition, terroir, and time-honored techniques, one name shines brighter than most: Bollinger. With a history dating back to 1829, this prestigious champagne house has consistently delivered excellence in every bottle. But there's one particular gem in their portfolio that stands as a shining example of their craftsmanship and devotion to the land—Bollinger's Champagne from La Côte aux Enfants. Bollinger have only ever released a small amount of still wine from this vineyard until now. Bollinger have released two single vineyard Champagnes vintages into the market and they are not to be missed!
In this journey through vineyards, history, and the art of champagne-making, we'll explore what makes Bollinger's La Côte aux Enfants special and how this celebrated house transforms grapes from this remarkable terroir into liquid gold.
The Terroir: Ay's Gift to Bollinger
When it comes to crafting remarkable champagne, terroir is paramount. The word "terroir" encompasses the unique combination of soil, climate, and geography that gives grapes their distinct characteristics. For Bollinger's La Côte aux Enfants, the terroir is none other than the historic vineyards of Ay.
Ay is a charming village nestled in the heart of the Champagne region, known for producing some of the finest Pinot Noir grapes in the world. The slopes of Ay are drenched in sunlight, and the soil is a harmonious blend of chalk and clay, providing an ideal environment for grapevines to thrive. But it's the La Cote aux Enfants vineyard within Ay that holds a special place in Bollinger's heart.
Translated as "The Children's Hillside," La Côte aux Enfants is a southeast-facing vineyard perched on the hillsides of Ay. This unique terroir is known for its ability to produce grapes of exceptional quality, particularly Pinot Noir. The combination of the specific climate, soil composition, and the expertise of local growers makes La Côte aux Enfants a treasure trove for Bollinger.
A Heritage of Excellence
Bollinger's connection with Ay dates back to its founding family, the Hennequins. In the early 19th century, Bollinger's founder, Henri-Joseph Bollinger, married Joseph Jacob-Plumet, the daughter of an influential Ay family involved in the Champagne trade. This union not only secured the company's future but also granted them access to some of the region's most coveted vineyards, including La Côte aux Enfants.
From that point on, Bollinger's legacy became intertwined with the terroir of Ay. They recognized the potential of La Côte aux Enfants and nurtured it with great care. Today, the relationship between Bollinger and this vineyard continues to flourish.
The Grapes: A Symphony of Pinot Noir
La Côte aux Enfants is primarily planted with Pinot Noir vines, and it is this noble grape variety that plays the leading role in the creation of Bollinger's champagne from this terroir. Pinot Noir is celebrated for its versatility and complexity, and it thrives in Ay's unique conditions.
The grapes harvested from La Côte aux Enfants are the epitome of what Pinot Noir can be. They are imbued with the essence of the terroir: the minerality of the chalky soils, the elegance of the slopes, and the nuances of the Ay microclimate. These grapes are the raw material from which Bollinger weaves its magic.
Crafting Excellence: The Bollinger Way
Bollinger's commitment to quality is unwavering, and it's this dedication that makes their champagne from La Cote aux Enfants a true masterpiece.
The journey begins with the careful selection and hand-harvesting of grapes from La Cote aux Enfants. This meticulous process ensures that only the finest fruit is chosen for the champagne. The Pinot Noir grapes are hand-picked at their peak of ripeness, a crucial step in achieving the wine's signature depth and complexity.
Once harvested, the grapes are transported to Bollinger's historic cellars in Ay. Here, tradition reigns supreme. Bollinger uses both oak barrels and stainless-steel tanks for fermentation, allowing them to create a champagne that marries the richness of oak with the precision of stainless steel.
Aging to Perfection
Aging is where Bollinger truly excels. The champagne from La Cote aux Enfants is aged for an extended period, allowing it to develop layers of complexity and finesse. Bollinger employs a mix of old and new oak barrels, carefully blending wines from different vintages to create a consistent and exceptional final product.
The Art of Blending
Blending is a hallmark of Bollinger's champagne-making philosophy. Their master blender, often referred to as the "Chef de Cave," is responsible for creating the house's signature style. With the champagne from La Cote aux Enfants, the art of blending reaches its zenith. It's a delicate dance of selecting wines that represent the terroir and the vintage perfectly, resulting in a champagne that embodies the essence of Ay.
Dosage: A Precise Finish
The final touch is the dosage, a carefully measured addition of sugar and wine that determines the champagne's sweetness level. Bollinger prides itself on maintaining a low dosage, allowing the pure character of the grapes and terroir to shine through.
Taste: Hear From The Critics
"Complex aromas of pie crust, iron, chalk and hints of sweet strawberries. Some ginseng. Full-bodied with very fine bubbles that give it tension and focus. Extremely fine and polished tannins that go on and on. Dried lemons and oranges. Chalk at the end. Hints of bitterness in the finish with subtle botanicals. Made from a single vineyard monopole of pure Pinot Noir." 99 pts James Suckling, August 2023
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