All that having been noted, it is Kaufmann and then-director Ghislain de Montgolfier who can take responsibility for the success that is Bollinger’s 2004 Brut Grande Annee, a bottling that, in marrying the restraint associated with young wines from this house with that of a relatively cool and copious but ultimately fascinating vintage, has rendered a work of subtle intrigue and refinement that will merit a dozen or more years’ attention. Quite pale in color and with unexpectedly green-gold shimmering, this two-thirds Pinot Noir cuvee displays alluringly silken texture and refinement of mousse as well as delicacy. Fresh white peach, yellow tomato, lime, and rhubarb offer subtly tart, brightly juicy succulence, and a mingling of chalk and sweet-saline oyster liquor serves for saliva-inducement in a long finish tinged with lightly toasted grains and nuts. It will be good to return next year to Bollinger, one of the houses I visited on my first day in Champagne 30 years ago and a longtime favorite; but for 2014, I was forced by press of time and complications of scheduling to limit myself to tasting a single new release. Early this year, dozen-year veteran Bollinger chef de cave Mathieu Kauffmann unexpectedly announced his resignation to join Reichsrat von Buhl (part of recently deceased Achim Niederberger’s plan for renewing that venerable Pfalz estate, inter alia through increased attention to its already impressive sparkling wine program), and in June Bollinger’s director Jerome Philipon announced that Kaufmann’s former right-hand, Gilles Descotes, would succeed him.
The blend of Grande Année 1996The grape supply comes only from grands crus and premiers crus vineyards of Champagne. 16 crus were used in the assemblage of the Grande Année 1996, 75 % from grands crus and 25 % from premiers crus. These were mainly from the villages of Aÿ, Bouzy, Louvois, Verzenay, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Mesnil s/Oger, Oger, Cuis, Cramant and Chouilly. The blend of Grande Année 1996 is made of 70 % pinot noir 30 % chardonnay
Foie gras, fresh or pan-friedGrilled fish, with or without sauce, lobsterRoast lamb or vealParmesan or Comte