Special Cuvée NV
From vineyard to bottling, Special Cuvée sees such an extraordinary level of care and attention, it is difficult to place within the non-vintage or, really, any Champagne category. It is a Champagne that stands apart. Within one bottle, all the complexity of flavor, texture and pleasure that Champagne can offer. Special Cuvée is truly a journey of devotion from Bollinger.
Bollinger is the producer most associated with a single grape variety in Champagne, namely Pinot Noir. This more difficult grape to grow makes up a minimum of 60% of all of Bollinger’s Champagne. The harmony of Pinot Noir’s richness and elegance plays a large part in Special Cuvée’s distinct profile, the ripe red berries and powerful impact a clear signature. Then there is the other association that Bollinger is so well known for: winemaking in barrel. As virtually every Champagne producer in the latter half of the 20th century moved to fermenting in large lots in stainless steel tanks, Bollinger persisted to oversee fermentation barrel by barrel for all vintage Champagnes and a remarkable 30% of Special Cuvée. Why? Because the development of flavors becomes so much more complex, and the texture rounder and silkier. A third Bollinger specialty is the aging of Champagnes. Most Champagnes on the market are primarily made up of the most recently harvested vintage before requirements to age in bottle. Bollinger is primarily made up of Champagnes that are not from the most recent vintage, and in the end a newly released bottle of Bollinger is around 7-8 years old. A fourth – and utterly distinct – practice at Bollinger is the use of Reserve Magnums. The best vineyards will be aged under cork in magnum for up to 15 years, and hand disgorged into the final blend to bring the aromas and flavors only a great aged Champagne can display, notes such as truffles, ginger and walnut.
So you have it all: the freshness that Champagne brings naturally, the secondary notes as the fruit character becomes riper and savory and spicy notes enter, and the third level, when fruit becomes almost crystallized, texture becomes like velvet, and the glass in front of you brings meaning to you and with those you have chosen to share. Special Cuvée does all of this for you.
What's In a Name?
In 1911, Georges Bollinger’s British agent gave him the idea for the name Special Cuvée – “special” written the English way, without an accent. He thought the French expression “Brut sans année” was no match for such a distinctive Champagne. More than a hundred years later, the name of Bollinger’s non-vintage Champagne still symbolizes its expertise and exceptionalism.
85% of the grapes for Special Cuvée are sourced from a combination Grand Cru and Premier Cru villages. Bollinger’s vineyards are the source for over 60% of their production, as was laid down as a minimum in a quality charter written several decades ago. Additionally, Bollinger was accredited with a “High Environmental Value” certification in 2012 (more here).
30% of Special Cuvée is vinified in used oak of 228 liters, with some 400 liter casks up to 40 years old. This commitment to traditional vinification is at the heart of Bollinger, and they are the only remaining Champagne producer with a cooper on staff. The wine is then matured for 30-36 months on the lees, with the final blend consisting of 50% reserve wines, and 5-10% of the total blend consisting of reserve wines of 5-15 years in age kept in magnums under cork. This totally unique, laborious process (each magnum is disgorged by hand to be blended) results in wines with a vast spectrum of aromas and flavors, and an unmatched texture. Dosage is approximately 8-9 grams per liter.
“One experiences many sensations with Special Cuvée. On the nose, it offers beautiful complexity; ripe fruit and spicy aromas, with hints of roasted apples, apple compote and peaches. Then, on the palate, it has a subtle combination of structure, length and vivacity; bubbles like velvet with aromas of pear, brioche and spicy aromas, along with notes of fresh walnut.”
– CELLARMASTER GILLES DESCOTES
Bollinger is often considered the ultimate food pairing Champagne due to its weight and Pinot Noir profile, and Special Cuvée certainly embodies this versatility. It makes a great match for any fish, especially sushi and sashimi. It brings out the creaminess and sweetness of shellfish, such as shrimp, prawn, crayfish and grilled lobster. It stands up to poultry dishes beautifully, as well as white meat or, alternatively, charcuterie. And to carry you through the meal, it is a perfect accompaniment to hard cheeses, such as Parmesan.
Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir
Champagne Bollinger supports sustainable wine growing by grassing over the ground, using biological pest control, reducing the use of herbicides, recycling pruning waste, and planting hedges and orchards to encourage biodiversity. The Côte aux Enfants vineyard is managed organically.
Suggested Retail Price
"The complexity and richness of Special Cuvée is unparalleled among the entry non-vintage blends of every Champagne house [...] Its grand recipe explains why, built on incredible depth of 50%-60% reserves. Triumphant complexity is a given at Bollinger, but it’s the dynamic freshness and vitality that really set it apart as one of the most affordable Champagne benchmarks."
Wine & Spirits - "One of Bollinger’s great assets is a massive stock of reserve wine, including 600,000 magnums held under cork. Gilles Descôtes tends those reserves, working with the blending team to subsume the variations of the current vintage into Bollinger’s Special Cuvée by using a majority of reserve wines in the blend. The result is a rich and harmonious Champagne with deep reserves of flavor. Its substantial, formal structure feels polished, its flavors balancing the cool earthiness of a limestone cave and the sunnier, bright floral notes of fresh cream. Built for food, whether emphasizing the freshness with lobster bisque, or the depth with beef Wellington and chanterelles."
James Suckling - “Impressive concentration, freshness and purity here. It’s all gently enriched with some savory, autolysis-driven characters. Truly a modern classic! Showing attractive spiced-apple, lemon and pink rose-like florals on the palate, this flows nicely into white-cherry territory with grilled hazelnuts and a core of sorbet-like fleshy peaches and lemons. Great balance. Drink now.”
More on Champagne Bollinger Special Cuvée NV
January 2, 2019 - Luxury publication House Beautiful recommended their 10 top champagnes to consider toasting the New Year with in an online story, "These Are the Best Champagnes to Pop This New Year's…
Other Wines by this Producer
In the same way that Special Cuvée stands apart from non-vintage Champagnes, Bollinger Rosé is an exception for Rosé Champagnes. What is more, it is a relative secret, as Bollinger did not release a non-vintage Rosé until 2008 and the quantity produced is quite limited. The wine begins as Special Cuvée and then Bollinger's specialty as the Pinot Noir producer in Champagne takes center stage, as the red fruits that join the conversation dance vibrantly, the finish has just a hint of perfectly ripe tannin, and the deep complexity of the wine shines through transparently.
PN, made entirely from Pinot Noir to underscore the very essence and DNA of the House style, is the first new cuvée added to Bollinger’s permanent range since rosé in 2008. Each release of PN, developed as a series to bring Bollinger’s unique vision of Pinot Noir to light, will showcase a different cru from the base year that highlights its distinctive terroir and taste.
La Grande Année: The Great Year. This Champagne is the embodiment of everything that makes Bollinger the producer that stands apart in Champagne. La Grande Année, or LGA, preserves the traditions of the past and symbolizes the word "hand-crafted" so strongly that an overused word suddenly becomes the only appropriate definition.
Lily Bollinger agreed to a Bollinger rosé under one condition, it had to be extraordinary, and that is how La Grande Année Rosé was born. A blend like no other, the wine is as an extension to the House's prestige cuvée, La Grande Année, as is the subtle marriage between this great vintage Champagne and the addition of red wine from a unique plot, the legendary Côte aux Enfants.
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