Our Wine of the Week: Bollinger 2012 Grand Année

The House of Bollinger, as famous as it is, may never have seen quite such a golden period as it has enjoyed in recent years. Their Special Cuvee has looked as good as ever. The latest releases have been their flagship RD (Recently Disgorged) from the 2004 vintage, the spectacular 2008 Grand Année and now, the amazing 2012 Grand Année. 

They have, of course, had the benefit of riding a wave of stunning vintages, three of the best from this century – only 2002 would intrude, likely at the expense of 2004, though it will be one of those late night debates for many years, as to which is the better. As for vintages since 2012, we have the 2018 in waiting, which may prove the finest of the lot. Bollinger’s chef du cave Gilles Descôtes, has described 2018 as “the best harvest of my life”.

2008 was a wonderful year – graceful, refined, piercingly focused and with real length. These are understated wines which have many years ahead of them. Early days for the 12s, but in general, they seem richer, riper, more forward and fuller in flavour. Both exhibit quality of the highest order. In time, your choice is likely to come down to personal preference, but both will offer brilliant drinking. Elegance or exuberance. 

2008 was a small harvest and it seems 2012 was likewise. Guy de Rivoire, Bollinger’s Director of International Sales, has described 2012 as an “extreme” year. Frosts in April helped reduce the yields to a low 8,000kg/ha. As Bollinger has noted that they made even less 2012 than 2008, and with some to be set aside for their RD, grab whatever you can, as fast as you can ($250 – reports from London suggest Bolly has upped the prices around 10% as they felt that they released the 2008 too cheaply). The 2012 Rosé has also been released but it is not reviewed here, as I have not yet seen it. It is hard to imagine it is anything other than spectacular. 

The 2012 comes from 21 villages, notably Mesnil-sur-Oger for Chardonnay (and Oiry), and Verzenay and, of course, Ay, for the Pinot Noir. The final blend is 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay. Dosage is 8 grams/litre. The wine spent seven years on lees and was disgorged in May 2019. Chef de cave, Gilles Descôtes, describes the wine as “full, fresh and complex”, with notes of “almond, hazelnut and honey” on the nose, and a “silky texture with a long, refined finish”.

Personally, a gloriously decadent Champagne. The colour is perhaps a little more golden than one might expect from such young Champagne but it matters not. Seductively aromatic. There are peaches, tobacco leaf notes, hints of raspberry, fig, almond/hazelnut, perhaps even a whiff of honey, dried fruits, stonefruit, glacéd grapefruit and oystershell touches. Even hints of truffles, suggesting what might be to come. More open than 2008, more full in flavour and riper. Superbly structured. Vibrant acidity yet a hedonistic, creamy palate. Even at this early stage, the complexity in this Champagne is compelling. Great length. It really does persist for an incredible period of time. Fantastic Champagne and while truly wonderful now, it has a great future. 98. 

What better way to endure the self-isolation imposed upon us.

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