The House of Bollinger only produces vintage champagnes in exceptional years, when the grapes have reached a perfect quality and maturity with a perfect balance between the acids and sugars. Hence the denomination "Grande Année" given to this champagne which, unlike the "Special Cuvée", is only produced from grapes of that particular harvest.
The Bollinger Grande Année remains, however, a blended wine from crus and grape varieties. In this sense it too carries the expression of the House style. However, in this case, the style is also dependent on the characteristics of the given vintage. It is the best wine Bollinger can produce in an individual year by exposing its particular character.
The blend of Grande Année 1996
The 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
Vinification of Grande Année 1996
Grande Année 1996 was only produced from the CUVEE
The first fermentation was done in small oak casks (205, 225 and 410 litres), lot by lot, cru by cru, grape variety by grape variety. This allows Bollinger to use a very strict selection process. Bollinger only uses old casks (5 years old or older) to ensure that neither tannin nor oak flavours are imparted to the wines. This method increases both the aromatic complexity and the ageing capacity of such wines.
Grande Année 1996 ages in the cellars under natural cork
After bottling, the second fermentation and the ageing in the cellars, is done using a real cork stopper, which ensures a better barrier against oxidization than the crown cap.
This process, quite unique in champagne, is a guarantee of freshness and allows the aromas to keep their bouquet and clearness.
After disgorging by hand, Grande Année 1996 will rest for a minimum of 3 months before shipping. This is necessary for the wine to assimilate the "liqueur d'expédition" and recover from the shock created by disgorgement.