‘Taste RD as an RD’ pleads Bollinger cellar master

Drink Bollinger RD within one year of disgorgement, pleaded the Champagne brand’s cellar master, Gilles Descôtes, at the launch of its 2004 expression in London yesterday morning.

Bollinger launched its RD 2004 at Bonhams in London on 22 March 2018

Having performed a masterclass for the UK trade and press to launch Bollinger RD 2004 at Bonhams auction house on New Bond Street, Gilles Descôtes, who is chef de cave for the house, asked attendees not to cellar the Champagne for an extended period, but drink the fizz while it was still recently disgorged.

“Try and taste RD as an RD,” he said, knowing the UK collector’s penchant for cellaring fine Champagne. “So taste it within a year of disgorgement,” he added.

RD, which stands for ‘récemment dégorgé’, or ‘recently disgorged’ in English, is a prestige vintage Champagne that has spent an extended period ageing on its lees, and is generally released within 6 months of being disgorged – when the lees are expelled from the bottle under pressure.

Madame Lilly Bollinger launched the first RD on 6 June 1967 with the 1952 vintage and, because it is only made in the best harvests, just 25 expressions have been released since then.

According to Descôtes, inspiration for the inaugural expression hailed from something that was already being done for guests of Champagne Bollinger.

It was common practice to open old bottles of Champagne for visitors to the house, disgorging them on site and serving them straight away, and Lilly Bollinger decided to take this process more mainstream at a time when other brands were unveiling more top-end cuvées.

“It was her idea, because she thought, we are doing this for our best friends, so why not do it for our consumers,” recalled Descôtes.

As a result, considering the Champagne being launched this week, Descôtes urged people to drink the product in a similar manner, in other words, as soon as possible after the Champagne is released.

However, when asked later by the drinks business to explain the comment, he said that it referred specifically to the RD 2004, as opposed to all RD vintage releases.

“I am not pushing for all RD to be drunk before one year after disgorgement, but for the 2004, because the vintage is so open and complex; it has been a long time since we have had such an aromatic and generous vintage,” he said.

Considering the RDs shown at the launch, which included expressions going back to the 1996 vintage, he said that 1996 RD was “bold and sharp”, 2002 RD was “bold and fresh”, and 2004 was “bold and brilliant and generous”, later commenting that the 2004 was much more open at this stage in its development than the two other vintages when they were released.

The RD 2004 was released to the UK trade yesterday and disgorged in November 2017 (although a small amount was also disgorged in June 2017). Subsequent disgorgements include one in January and then March this year.

It was given a dosage of 3 g/l and retails in the UK for around £150.

Descôtes told db that RD 2004 would be disgorged over the course of 1.5 years, but no longer, commenting that it used to be a Bollinger policy to always have some RD available for buyers, but today, it is released over an 18-month period, and “it’s ok if we don’t have any RD on the market for two years.”

Speaking generally about the RD expression, he said that the aim was to have a Champagne with “freshness and contrast”. “We want the complexity of an old wine on the nose and the freshness of a young wine on the palate.”

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