Episode 77 – 15th September 2021
Bollinger & Taittinger brand new releases
B13 (also known as) 2013 Bollinger, Blanc de Noirs, Champagne, France (approx. £100.00 – www.thefinestbubble.com, www.thechampagnecompany.com, www.bordeauxindex.com, www.harveynichols.com, www.bbr.com).
From the Bollinger press release – ‘In 2013, the Champagne region faced unique weather conditions: a long winter punctuated by snow and frost, a wet and hesitant spring, then a very hot summer with violent thunderstorms. Despite these turbulent circumstances, Champagne Bollinger shaped the wine from this particularly late harvest into a vintage, and by doing so, also made a limited edition: B13, which stands for Bollinger 2013.’
Made from 100% Pinot Noir and using only five Crus, of which 92% are Grands Crus, and 8% are Premiers Crus, this unique Bolly offering spent over seven years on its lees before disgorgement and release. I have written a lot about the recent fashion of big gun Champagne Houses releasing unexpected and unusual wines, and, of course, I only feature the best on this website. The rest and there are too many for my liking, seem to lack purpose, integrity and flair. One thing is certain – these wines all command arresting price points, so you have to be a fan to take the plunge. Is B13 worth a roll of the dice? If you ignore the snow-white gift box (which I found particularly awkward to open and Bollinger describes as an ‘eco-designed case’!) and the blurb which bangs on about terroir, sustainability, environmentalism and beliefs and just taste the wine, this is a stunning treat in the glass. We know that Bollinger is an exemplary House, and we also know that their holdings on the Montage de Reims are phenomenal. We also know that they are fine upstanding citizens. It would be refreshing for the press release and accompanying blurb to focus on the wine itself instead of Bollinger’s ‘devotion to environmental values’, but times have changed. So onto the important stuff – the flavour, that is ‘100% Bollinger’ in its style and panache. There has never been a Bollinger release that is drinking this completely on release. Admittedly this could not be achieved without the fruit experiencing the climatic conditions of the 2013 vintage. My mind goes back to 2003 by Bollinger – another vintage ending in a ‘3’ and one of the first diffusion labels this esteemed House came up with. Whereas 2003 by Bollinger was a super-charged caricature of Bolly with hilarious fruit intensity and pizzazz, 2013 is a far more serious wine. It is certainly packed with fruit, but this fruit is pliable, generous and uncommonly glossy. There are flashes of exoticism, too. It is Bolly-shaped, but nowhere near as reticent as youthful releases of La Grande Année, which inevitably benefit from ageing. B13 is a great success, and if you are new to Bollinger or have never really understood the appeal of these Pinot Noir-dominant wines, then this bottle might just tempt you away from the Côte des Blancs to the Dark Side. I am a lifelong Bollinger fan, but that doesn’t stop me from calling out wines that fall short and I have done this where appropriate before. Suffice to say that B13 is fabulous fun at the same time as being a remarkable wine in its own right. Out of a very challenging vintage, B13 is one of the most successful and most delicious wines. 18.5/20 (Drink now – 2025)
2011 Taittinger, Comtes de Champagne, Grands Crus Blanc de Blancs, France (£144.00 (no gift box) and £150.00 (with gift box) www.thefinestbubble.com; £535.00 for 6 bottles in bond, www.goedhuis.com). Since publishing this piece there is a growing list of stockists, as predicted below, including – www.petershamcellar.com, www.atlasfinewines.com, www.lassemblage.co.uk, www.millesima.co.uk, www.albanyvintners.com
This epic wine is set for release on Thursday this week, so this is a sneaky preview. I imagine that hordes of merchants will be scrabbling for stock, so you should be able to track it down with ease. Let’s cut to the chase. By contrast to the Bollinger, Comtes is not a one-off, nor anything out of the ordinary. It is a label that all committed Champagne lovers adore. Predictable perhaps. But, of course, one thing does vary, and that is the vintage. The ‘worst’ Comtes I ever tasted was rather lovely. The ‘best’, and there have been many (1959, 1966, 1996, 2002, 2006) are all sublime and you can now add 2011 to this list. Taittinger always seems to shun the spotlight, unlike Dom Perignon and other more attention-seeking brands and this modesty rather suits this House. I did something that I never do after first tasting my sample bottle. I was so shocked with the sheer class that I sealed the bottle with a simple Champagne stopper and then tasted it again and again over two days. The stress-testing sorts the wheat from the chaff. It is unlikely that anyone who bought a bottle would do this. Still, I like to see how a potentially great wine evolves, opens up, sometimes falls over, and sometimes blossoms over a few days because it gives me an indication of its potential and its true baseline of quality. The fruit is so tense, grand and layered it is remarkable. The flavour, the fizz, the length, the momentum and the overall halo of greatness did not change one iota over nearly 60 hours of being open with no preservation whatsoever. This is a genius, B de B and while it tastes scintillating now, I am confident that it will amaze Comtes fans for decades to come. 19.5++/20 (Now to 2050)