WORDS KEN GARGETT
The evidence has been building for some time. 2008 is one of the greatest vintages seen in Champagne for many years. Aficionados will argue over just where it fits in the overall scale of things, and which compare, but for me, it looks like it might be the best since the scintillating 1988. 1990, 1996 and 2002 will all have disciples, with very good reason, but the balance, elegance, focus, brilliant acidity and its ethereal aristocratic nature give the nod to ’08 for me.
There are many truly great champagnes which we have already seen from this vintage and another has now joined the upper echelon, the 2008 Bollinger Grand Année.
The conditions that year were largely unremarkable with a cold winter followed by frosts, then a warm May, all of which led to a good flowering. It was reasonably cool as they headed into harvest. All of this provided grapes of the highest quality, with the acidity to ensure wines with a very long life. Some Houses even held their 08s back and released their 09s first, knowing that the longer the 08s had on lees and in the cellar, the better they would be.
The 2008 from Bollinger is a blend of 71% Pinot Noir and 29% Chardonnay. The Pinot is all Grand Cru, mostly Verzenay and Ay, with some Verzy and Ambonnay. The Chardonnay is almost all Grand Cru as well – mostly Le Mesnil-sur-Oger and Cramant.
The wine was fermented entirely in old oak barrels. Dosage is 8 grams/litre, though you’d never pick it. 100% malolactic fermentation. The wine is presented in a new bottle with a fresh label, but it is what is in the bottle that makes the biggest impression.
For me, an exquisite wine, but one that is, even after all this time, still so young. A real chalk note comes through on the nose with minerally backing. Limes and a fresh saline, almost oystershell note. On the palate, the flavours move more to hints of stonefruit, grapefruit and the merest whiff of vanilla bean. Fresh as is imaginable, it offers the bright, vibrant acidity of the 2008 vintage. There is great depth, complexity, length and balance, with a seductive texture. Fuller than many, as one expects from Bolly, but the balance never wavers. For me, 98. A wine that will be even better over the next decade and one which will drink superbly for decades.
What is interesting is that, at this stage, this is not a wine one would pick as a Bollinger. No doubt, as time proceeds, that will emerge, but at the moment, it is a shining example of the glories of 2008, rather than of this great House. RRP $240.