Bottle size matters for Champagne

Bottle shape and size has a significant effect on the style and evolution of Champagne according to some of the region’s leading houses.

Champagne bottlesIn an experiment on Monday this week, Ruinart proved that the bottle format alters the development of the Champagne through a blind tasting at the Masterpiece art fair in London.

As previously reported by the drinks business, a group of wine writers were asked to assess six Champagnes served in black ISO glasses, before it was revealed that four of the wines were identical, except for the fact they were bottled in different formats.

A half-bottle blanc de blancs NV from the house showed the developed aromas one might expect from an aged vintage Champagne, while a Jeroboam had a much younger character, including an attractive, but slightly reductive note.

The standard bottle showed an appealing richness, while the most balanced wine of the tasting was the Champagne aged in magnum.

Following this, yesterday, at a UK press lunch in London, Bollinger served its latest release: the Bollinger RD 2000, which has been bottled just in Jeroboams because the larger format was declared better at preserving freshness.

“We chose to launch the RD 2000 only in Jeroboams because it was a very warm year,” explained Gilles Descôtes, Bollinger’s new chef de cave following the departure of Mathieu Kauffmann earlier this year to join German producer Reichsrat von Buhl.

“We thought the wine was not fresh enough to make an RD, but then we realised the RD 2000 in Jeroboam was perfect… we found freshness and complexity in Jeroboam that we didn’t find in the [standard] bottle.”

Meanwhile, Descôtes stressed the beneficial properties of the new Bollinger bottle, launched last May, which has been dubbed “the mini magnum” by the house, due to its wide base and narrow neck.

Bollinger 1846

Bollinger’s new bottle dubbed the “mini magnum”

The design reduces the oxygen ingress into the Champagne, slowing the rate at which the wine evolves, explained Descôtes.

And the impact is greatest on the Bollinger NV rosé, according Andrew Hawes, managing director of Bollinger’s UK importer Mentzendorff.

“The rosé tastes significantly different in the new bottle, it has taken it more towards the reductive style, and people really like the taste of the Bollinger rosé in the 1846 bottle,” he told db.

Finally, Descôtes showed that low pH was not a prerequisite for age-worthy Champagne with a tasting of two very different vintages. One was a Bollinger RD from the extremely cool 1988 harvest, which produced wines with very high levels of acidity, and another was from the very warm 1976 vintage, which yielded wines with much lower acid levels.

Having tasted both wines it was clear that the Champagne from the warmer 1976 vintage tasted more youthful than the younger, higher acid wine from 1988.

“The capacity for ageing is not about acidity,” he concluded.

Then, speaking to db after the tasting, he said that the most important factor for creating long-lived Champagne was grape quality.

bollinger_special_cuvee_1

Bollinger’s previous standard, straight-sided bottle

“You want there to be absolutely no rot as you only need a few bad grapes to affect the ageing of the wine,” he explained.

He also said that the Champenois traditionally look at the ratio of sugar to acidity when considering the potential longevity of a wine, with a ratio of 20 believed to be “perfect” in the region.

However, the 1976 had a ratio of 26, and the 1988 had a ratio of 16, he recorded.

As a consequence, he also pointed out that the evolution of Champagne is “very unpredictable”.

Interestingly, he added that one of his favourite Champagnes was the “2003 by Bollinger” – a special and controversial vintage release from a notoriously hot harvest.

“I think this will be a good surprise for its ability to age,” he told db.

Looking ahead, he noted that the next RD release from Bollinger will be the 2002 in all formats, which will be unveiled next year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note that comments are subject to our posting guidelines in accordance with the Defamation Act 2013. Posts containing swear words, discrimination, offensive language and libellous or defamatory comments will not be approved.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Events Sales Executive

The Drinks Business
Central London, UK

Sale & Operations Manager

Marussia Beverages
Marylebone, London, UK

Prestige Account Manager – Europe

Jackson Family Wines
London, UK

Sales Executive

MAISON SASSY
London, GB

Head of Supplier Management - Group

Matthew Clark
London and Bristol, UK

Brand Manager – Whisky

ATOM Brands
Tunbridge Wells, UK

Brand Manager - Gin

ATOM Brands
Tunbridge Wells, UK

International Business Development Assistant

iDealwine
Paris, France with frequent trips to London office

Events Assistant

Speciality Drinks
London, UK

Pink Rosé Festival

Cannes,France
7th Feb 2018

VinoVision Paris

Paris,France
12th Feb 2018

Vinisud

Montpellier,France
18th Feb 2018
Click to view more

Champagne Masters 2017

The only Champagne blind tasting in the UK, the competition will reward the best wines in the following categories:

The Global Rosé Masters 2017

With wines from the palest of pink to almost ruby red, bone dry to almost cloyingly sweet, reductively handled to barrel-aged, as well as gently spritzy to fully sparkling.

Click to view more