While I think that I’m immune to marketing, getting a bottle of Bollinger proves to me that I am not. Part of me wants to believe that luxury goods cannot rest on great ad campaigns. They have to have unique quality, otherwise there’d be nothing to sell, right? All of that clear thinking disappeared as I held the bottle of Bollinger R.D. 2007 in both sweaty palms feeling stupidly excited. All the times I wanted to drink Bollinger and couldn’t coalesced into a greedy haze as I marvelled at the retro-futuristic label and felt the heft of the glass. The moment became a swirl of Bond quotes and AbFab quips. Don’t say legend. The word is a cliche now, used for any old acquaintance or, points for maximum irritation, horse. But the old iteration is worthy of the Bollinger R.D. series, the 25th vintage of Champagne Bollinger’s Extra Brut top cuvée started by Madame Lily Bollinger herself. This is it: the one which has arguably shaped the taste of champagne as we know it now.
When the first R.D. was launched in 1967 from the 1952 cuvée, everyone was necking young sweet champagne. We’re talking three year old bottles rammed with 20 grammes of sugar per litre. Madame Bollinger (pictured here, bottle in hand) thought she’d make a something a little more special for her customers, something similar to the rare champagne treat she’d offer to her private dinner guests. After dining chez elle, everyone would head down the cellar and open a mature bottle. This undosed, untouched vintage champagne gave those lucky drinkers a pure taste of the best aged vintages. So the R.D. – ’recent disgorgement’ – was born, with a slight six grammes of sugar per litre added. The experiment paid off. The R.D. captured the intensity of vintage champagne and the sleek freshness of ‘newer’ wine. Even better, the 2007 is being compared to the R.D. 1976, both unexpected classics from ‘uneven’ vintages. Who doesn’t love an underdog vintage? And who doesn’t love casually mentioning two years of Bollinger to impress friends you haven’t seen for a whole year and/or people you’ve just met on an app? You can be knowledgable and possibly pretentious all in one.
Vintage champagnes can be like demanding partners, not letting you eat in peace. They spend the whole night saying, “Look at me, look at me, look at me”
Vintage champagne is fun but increasingly not as much fun as I’d thought before I tasted more of the stuff. Vintage champagnes can be like demanding partners, not letting you eat in peace. They spend the whole night saying, “Look at me, look at me, look at me”, kicking you under the table and colliding with food and other conversation. Don’t get me wrong, I like a wine that has a whole brass marching band full of flavours going on, but I don’t want it all the time. Sometimes, I want to have complexity and a little, you know, quiet. The R.D. does that. Despite long maturation (four times more than required) of only the very best vintages fermented in oak barrels (Bollinger employs the last cooper in Champagne, which is both nice and a bit heartbreaking), this bottle actually likes food. That saffron is suggested as a pairing nails it: this is a mature champagne that lets you to taste nice delicate things. Then again, as Eric Asimov once said, “The same bottle will taste different at a candlelight dinner with your sweetheart than it will, say, in a fluorescent office.” So drink it where you can enjoy yourself enjoying.
It’s moreish and beguiling, like a gorgeous nymph laughing as it escapes around a marble pillar
The R.D. 2007 is unlike anything I’ve popped open before: it is refined, subtle, complex and clean. It’s moreish and beguiling, like a gorgeous nymph laughing as it escapes around a marble pillar. Oh hell, what am I saying? There are flavours of buttery brioche and fruit, with tropical, candied apple and pineapple singing in your mouth. Oak spices it up a bit then combines with a hint of oyster from the sea. There’s fresh citrus and ginger. If you, like me, adore that direct human-to-bottle experience, this is the bottle of genuine champagne from one of the oldest and best houses in Champagne ideally suited to celebrate coming out of lockdown. Open it for your vaccination. Or for your vacation. Say what you will about the oxidative style (tastes of dried fruit or caramel), it is an experience not to be missed. It is also a bottle that demands you drink it all in one night – it doesn’t like being kept once opened. Unopened, it cellars well if you can keep your lips off it.
For design fanatics, the Bollinger R.D. 2007 label is wow. It really is a thing of beauty. Throwing back to its 1952 original design, the curved aluminium features the visually exciting Eurostile font, now simply called “mythical”. The label is doing the work for an icon, drawing your eye to an exceptional bottle. The attention to this label is not accidental: Bollinger R.D. was the first champagne to specify a disgorgement date – for my bottle it was 19th January 2021, determined from the code on the bottle’s neck – which tells you exactly what that bottle was doing before it came into your hot little hands.
There’s always a reason, not an excuse, to get the Bollinger R.D. 2007. Get it for pleasure or medicinal use. Swapping out liquor for Bollinger, I’ll let Hemingway from 1935 have the last word: “When you work hard all day with your head and know you must work again the next day…modern life…is often a mechanical oppression and liquor is the only mechanical relief.” C