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1999 Bollinger Vieilles Vignes Française Blanc de Noirs
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The Champagne House of Bollinger was established in 1829 by Jacques Bollinger and Paul Renaudin. Over the years the vineyard holdings have been steadily increased with the largest expansion taking place under the stewardship of the legendary Mme Lily Bollinger. She ran the company between 1941 and 1977 and today it is managed by her great-nephew, Ghislain de Montgolfier.
Bollinger has a reputation for producing muscular champagnes with body, depth and power, and is today considered one of the "Great" Champagne houses.
70% of the grapes come from the firm's own vineyards. 80% of the harvest is barrel-fermented with the wines being kept on their yeast lees for an extended period of time (in the case of the RD, around 10 years).
Bollinger produces classic, complex, Pinot-Noir dominated champagnes with the ability to age gracefully for many years.
26% of vineyards in Champagne are planted with Chardonnay and it performs best on the Côtes des Blancs and on the chalk slopes south of Epernay. It is relatively simple to grow, although it buds early and thus is susceptible to spring frosts. It produces lighter, fresher wines than those from Burgundy and gives finesse, fruit and elegance to the final blend. It is the sole grape in Blancs de Blancs, which are some of the richest long-lived Champagnes produced.
Pinot Noir accounts for nearly 40% of the plantings in Champagne and lies at the heart of most blends - it gives Champagne its body, structure, strength and grip. It is planted across Champagne and particularly so in the southern Aube district.
The final component is Pinot Meunier and this constitutes nearly 35% of the plantings. Its durability and resistance to spring frosts make the Marne Valley, a notorious frost pocket, its natural home. It ripens well in poor years and produces a soft, fruity style of wine that is ideal for blending with the more assertive flavours of Pinot Noir. Producers allege that Pinot Meunier lacks ageing potential, but this does not deter Krug from including around 15% of it in their final blends.
Brut denotes a dry style of Champagne (less than 15 grams per litre). Most Champagne is non-vintage, produced from a blend from different years. The non-vintage blend is always based predominately on wines made from the current harvest, enriched with aged wines (their proportion and age varies by brand) from earlier harvests, which impart an additional level of complexity to the end wine. Champagnes from a single vintage are labelled with the year reference and with the description Millésimé.
Non-vintage Champagnes can improve with short-term ageing (typically two to three years), while vintages can develop over much longer periods (five to 30 years). The most exquisite and often top-priced expression of a house’s style is referred to as Prestige Cuvée. Famous examples include Louis Roederer's Cristal, Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon, and Pol Roger's Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.