Raw Power, Harmonized
2002 Bollinger Grande Année
In great vintages, Bollinger's Grande Année is one of the Champagnes I clear room for in my cellar.
For the 2002 Grande Année, I cleared double.
This is the vintage to go long on.
The 2002 Champagnes strut with a significance, a confidence, a grand demeanor that I must say suits the Bollinger style especially well.
These are mere neophytes right now, taut with excellent raw material: massive, coating, chalky minerality and a tightly wound spool of citrus fruits and vibrant acid that will, with five to ten years’ time, unfurl into that signature, rolling Bollinger power, that suave trademark of richness and complexity.
Bollinger is known for their sexy, curvaceous, statuesque wines, but all of that would soon get boring without the great finesse the house also manages. As Champagne expert Peter Liem says, "Bollinger’s Champagnes are often known for their richness, but whenever I taste one, it’s usually its fineness that I notice first and foremost."
I’d pen those same exact words regarding the Champagnes from the 2002 vintage: Now recognized for their richness, their ripe and concentrated fruit, I believe it’s the fine-ness of the 02s that comes across first and foremost; it’s the elegance; the harmony these simultaneously achieve on the palate that are shaping them up to belong not only among the greatest of the last decade but also of this new century.
Time will tell, but for now the 2002s appear to be in a very good position to hold their ground as one of the very great declared vintages; and the 02 Bollinger Grande Année maintains a considered spot among the forerunners of this pack.
Should you choose to indulge in the next year or two, I’d advise a larger-bowled wine glass, or even a gentle decant to encourage the fullness of aromatics to come forward a bit more. In fact to me, Bollinger is always best enjoyed out of larger glasses - the stature here needs some space to stretch out, open up and show off. The Grande Année also does well at a full dinner table, even alongside more intense or substantial foods; the majority of Pinot Noir in the cuvée (60%) must be partially responsible here.
Truthfully, I have to wonder how much longer the Grande Année - in any vintage - will be available for under $100. The quality here is outstanding for the price: This prestige cuvée is sourced from mostly Grand Cru vineyards in Champagne with a few Premier Cru sites thrown in, and the house is notorious for its refusal to skimp on the "little things" that indeed make great wine. Cases in point: Bollinger ages most of their parcels separately in small barrels; secondary fermentation is under natural cork; bottles of Grande Année are entirely hand-disgorged (the date of which is printed on the back of every bottle) - everything indicating a superior level of dedication and commitment to quality.
To reiterate, the 2002 is very young right now - primary and even steely, its fruit sheathed in minerals. These elements deserve time to open fully and lavishly into the Bollinger signature richness. Combined with the pricing which is also very sharp right now, the 02 Grande Année deserves a special corner in the cellar.
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