The subtitle on the 2008 Grande Année is a single line of elegant french script: ‘Elevé en fûts, Remué & dégorgé à la main’ — raised in oak, riddled and disgorged by hand.
It says it all, really, before you’ve even got to those spiced citrus notes, the piping berries and soft fruits, the underlying minerality on the nose. This is a special wine that has been treated accordingly — it’s heartening to know that, after a prolonged period in small, 20-year-old barrels, every single bottle of La Grande Année is still riddled and disgorged by hand. Bollinger is now the only champagne house in the region to employ a full time barrel maker — and the difference is evident. Ancient methods for a wine of infinite depth.
Then there’s the bottle. La Grande Année 2008 is the house’s first prestige cuvée to have been aged in the remarkable 1846-shaped bottle, which has a unique shape designed to give individual character to the wine.
Inspired by a 19th-century bottle discovered in the cavernous Bollinger cellars, the 1846 has a sweeping curve to its shape which essentially mimics the condition of a magnum, albeit in a normal bottle’s size. The narrower neck and wider base allow a gentle slowing of the oxygen exchange, and the result is a refined and sophisticated wine with excellent aging potential.
There’s a lovely freshness and richness to the 2008, which is likely down to the neat blend of pinot noir (71%) and chardonnay (29%) from the esteemed vineyards of the Montagne de Reims and the Côte des Blancs. Creamy effervescence and a spicy yet floral profile give way to an almost chalky minerality on the finish that lasts for several minutes. A year to savour, then, in every sense.