Bottle size matters for Champagne

4th July, 2013 by Patrick Schmitt

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

Job vacancies

Sales Account Manager

Jascots Wine Merchants
London, UK

Marylebone Sales Manager

Philglas & Swiggot
Marylebone, London, UK

Area Sales Manager

Bon Coeur Fine Wines
North England, UK

Procurement Assistant – Wine

Adnams PLC
Southwold, UK

Account Manager Central London

Speciality Drinks Ltd
London, UK

Brand Ambassador

Speciality Drinks Ltd
London, UK

National Business Development Manager

Speciality Drinks Ltd
London, UK

Marketing Assistant

Hatch Mansfield
Ascot, Berkshire, UK

Marketing Manager

Bancroft Wines
London, UK

Regional Sales Manager – Scotland

Bancroft Wines
London, UK

Sales Manager – London On-Trade

Bancroft Wines
London, UK

Customer Service & Sales Support Executive

Jascots Wine Merchants
London, UK

Market Insight Analyst

Conviviality PLC
London, UK

Technical Manager

Enotria&Coe
Park Royal, London, GB

The Global Sparkling Masters 2017

Deadline : 25th August 2017

The Global Malbec Masters 2017

Deadline : 25th August 2017

Global Chardonnay Masters 2017

Deadline : 1st September 2017

The Global Sauvignon Blanc Masters 2017

Deadline : 1st September 2017

Click to view more

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.

The Global Organic Masters 2017

The drinks business is thrilled to announce the launch of The Global Organic Masters

The Drinks Business Awards 2017

Now in its 15th year, the db awards have become the most authoritative, internationally respected badge of achievement in the alcoholic drinks industry.

The Asian Cabernet Sauvignon Masters 2017

the drinks business Hong Kong announces its first year of The Asian Cabernet Sauvignon Masters.

Click to view more