Champagne Bollinger unveiled its R.D. 2002 vintage in London yesterday as the first stage of a worldwide relaunch for the prestige cuvée.
The move marks the first step of a plan outlined earlier this year by Bollinger president Jérôme Philippon, when he told the drinks business: “For Bollinger, 2014 is the year of R.D.”
Following on from last year’s focus on rosé, the house feels that with the release of this 2002 vintage it now has enough stock to draw more attention to this récemment dégorgé, or “recently disgorged” expression.
Recent R.D. vintages have seen Bollinger decide to bottle this expression exclusively in large formats – magnum and Jeroboam for its 1999 and just 350 Jeroboams for its 2000 – to slow its maturation. However, Bollinger’s new chef de cave, Gilles Descôtes, pointed to the widely acclaimed “great vintage” represented by 2002 as giving the house confidence to bottle in a standard 75cl format as well.
Explaining the decision to begin this push in the UK, Philippon not only highlighted this market’s position as “the largest and by far the most important” for Bollinger, but noted that the first ever expression of R.D. was unveiled by Madame Bollinger 45 years ago at Berry Bros & Rudd, where the 2002 launch also took place.
Recalling the story behind the creation of the original R.D. 1952, Philippon recorded this move as a response to growing demand for Bollinger to emulate other houses such as Taittinger, Lanson and Pommery, each of whom introduced prestige cuvée styles to their portfolio during the ’60s.
The arrival of R.D. cemented an idea explored by Madame Bollinger a few years earlier in 1963, when she had offered the US market a Champagne called Bollinger Réserve, which had been made from the 1947 vintage in a recently disgorged style.
Bollinger’s R.D. 2002 alongside the house’s inaugural R.D. 1952 vintage
The launch of R.D. 1952 was swiftly followed in the same year by the introduction of a recently disgorged version of its 1953 vintage for the French and Swiss markets, while a 1955 expression appeared in Spain and Italy.
Describing the impact of this recently disgorged approach on the Champagne’s character, Philippon outlined an “incredible freshness in the mouth, combined with a very large palate of flavours, including tertiary notes, which are very unusual in a wine that fresh.”
In keeping with the Bollinger house style, R.D. 2002 is made predominantly from Pinot Noir, balanced by 40% Chardonnay, all taken from premier or grand cru sites in the Marne Valley. The must is then fermented in oak barrels before being sealed with cork rather than the traditional crown capsules.
Explaining this decision, Descôtes said: “When you want wine to age a long time, crown cap will not do the job properly,” as he noted that Bollinger uses cork for any styles designed to be aged for more than “five or six years”.
In common with an increasing number of houses, Bollinger R.D. 2002 displays its disgorgement date of 19 September 2013 on the back label.
Following this UK launch, Bollinger now plans to show its R.D. 2002 in France, followed by Hong Kong, New York, Beijing, Tokyo and Sydney “in the next few months.”
Bollinger R.D. 2002 carries an RRP of £175 per bottle or £900 per six-bottle case.