There’s only one champagne that’s both 007 sparkler and AbFab’s bawdy party juice and that’s Bollinger. This year, the champagne house and Bond have confirmed their lovematch of the last four decades with lots of PDAS and two luxury bottles which are the fruit of that fateful day in the 1970s when Bond producer Cubby Broccoli and Bollinger’s Christian Bizot shook hands and made a deal that fused drinking champagne with spying and shooting things. (The fictional Bond and Bollinger had met before then in 1956’s ‘Diamonds are Forever’.) Often swimming in the waters between naff and wow, Bond and Bollinger are fancy sharks relying on movement. Daniel Craig leaves the role to allow the franchise reboot. Bollinger’s controversial revamp of the last decade has moved to make sparkling wines with more structure, almost linear but very reliable flavour. There are masters of wine who have very politely told me that they’d rather not drink the “modern” Bollinger, but the brand isn’t meant for them. On one level, Bollinger is as solid as Bond and as much a crowd-pleaser. There are exceptions, as revealed at the recent Whisky Exchange Champagne Show in London. Two Bollinger favourites of the tough crowd were the Bollinger PN VZ16 – very refined and balanced – and the Bollinger Grand Année 2012. With almost ten years on lees, it’s very croissanty, well-structured and showy with hints of almonds and mangos.
The bottle wears a black and gold 007 submissive’s neck collar which will make you want to cry, “Pussy Galore”
The 25th Bond film is officially the biggest Hollywood movie of the pandemic era and so it’s only right that there are two bottles to celebrate this success. The Limited Edition is my favourite and it is a giddy start, with a gift box decorated with photographer Greg Williams’ iconic grey and black portraits of Daniel Craig and that Aston Martin DB5. The bottle wears a black and gold 007 submissive’s neck collar which will make you want to cry, “Pussy Galore” or any other Bond phrase. That Bollinger style is so distinctive that in a blind nose test will give a tight, tidy aroma compared to, say, a grower champagne with its earthy or wild complexity. This is a special cuvee, rich gold in colour and expected fine bead. It tastes of ripened fruit and subtle spicery, apple and peach, trailing brioche and a handful of nuts.
If you want to go deep cover, opt for The Bollinger 007 Limited Edition Millésimé 2011 vintage, with “25” etched on glass in a wooden box. It’s 100% Pinot Noir from Aÿ with 8g/l and the first bottle created both from that vintage and village. At 19 years, expect the taste of hazelnut, vanilla and citrus reinforced with honey and plum. There’s also the Limited Edition Moonraker 2007 ice bucket. Designed by Eric Berthes in the shape of the Moonraker space shuttle in crystal, pewter and wood. Complete the Bonding process with a visit to London’s Burlington Arcade and that new two-storied Bollinger 007 Bar – the first and only standalone branded bar in the capital. Because it is silly to ignore that association is an important part of what we fancy, I confess that I grew up in a house full of Bond fans. When Goldfinger came out, my brothers painted their bikes and the family lawnmower gold, so I admit to buying several bottles of the Limited Edition and enjoying them while remembering those family days. Not that we drank as kids because we didn’t. We dreamt of the glamour and excitement of Bond, all the way from our Midwestern town of 500 people.
This summer, I popped into The Bloomsbury Hotel’s Coral Room to witness people so happy to be out of lockdown that the scene was literally Bacchanalia – smiling and laughing and drinking and being generally merry with only a few lapses of etiquette. My drinking associate said then, “It’s funny I haven’t seen this many drunk people in daylight for a long time. It’s the bare foot on the table that really does it for me.” This was very early post-lockdown, when people had forgotten the difference between public and private spaces. A recent visit has proved this to be an improved and valuable watering hole. Located between my gym – the Central YMCA which is the very first YMCA – and the British Museum, the Coral Room lounge mimics a country house’s drawing room, albeit with larger windows, a curved bar and stools with people on them you don’t know. There are seats at the ready and a good selection of English sparkling wines suitable for before or after the theatre/cinema. ESWs are not as impossible to find by the glass or bottle as they used to be – you can even get some at Sadler’s Wells – but it’s nice to see a bar taking local sparklers seriously. Browse via county and roam to Camel Valley, Ridge View, Court Garden, Bride Valley, Chapel Down, Kit’s Coty, Gusbourne, Brightwell, Nyetimber, Albourne and one of my all time favourites Wiston. Even if the super spicy corn nibbles will napalm the subtle flavours of any proper ESW, full credit goes to The Coral Room and MW Anne McHale for bringing delicious Rathfinny and others to a wider, wilder audience.
While I may get a bottle of the gorgeous 2008 Elizabeth Salmon rosé release, Billecart-Salmon Vintage 2009 came out late last year to note, slaking sophisticated drinkers everywhere. Any time you have a Billecart-Salmon bottle, it’s a cause for pause. You don’t drink this while scrabbling through Instagram. This one is to savour. Glistening yellow gold, glinting with fruit – it is honeycomb, brioche (of course) and bright citrus with very little sweetness at 2g/l. If Bollinger is linear, this is taut and zesty with crisp stone fruit. One to drink all in one go with intelligent, thoughtful friends, choose those who can appreciate its structured sophistication. If this were a person, it would be someone very sexy wearing a pair of Cutler and Gross spectacles: desirable, stylish and intellectual. C