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Bollinger La Grande Année 1990

This week I will be updating Winedoctor from my base in the Loire, as I am down here for a few days in order to attend the Salon des Vins de Loire, the huge annual Loire wine fair for press, trade and similar. This isn't the first time I have updated the site when 'on the road', so to speak, especially as during the last few years travel away from home has become an increasingly frequent occurrence, for reasons both vinous and otherwise. Within the last twelve months I have updated the site from numerous unfamiliar offices and hotel rooms, often in London but also further afield, such as Nice which was a rather inconvenient base for a recent mad dash over to Tempier in late 2008, Bordeaux (specifically a château some distance north of Bordeaux) and now Angers. So it is not really a novel event, it is just something that I have not bothered publicising much.

What is novel about this trip is my attendance at the Salon, the abbreviated name by which those more familiar with the event refer to it. Having had good intentions for the past two years, for various reasons I failed to attend in both 2007 and 2008, but in 2009 I have at last managed to fulfil this promise to myself. It is a huge event spread over three days and attended by hundreds of vignerons from the length and breadth of the Loire. I'll be spending the next couple of days immersed (metaphorically, not literally, although the thought of the latter certainly has some appeal) in sparkling Saumur, peppery Pineau d'Aunis and voluptuously sweet Vouvray. In fact I kicked off in Angers yesterday with an unrelated tasting held by the Association Renaissance des Appellations, a group of 152 domaines and winemakers from across the world who all adhere to a set of philosophies on sustainable viticulture and winemaking, and who submit their wines to a tasting committee headed up by Olivier Humbrecht, Anne Claude Leflaive, Nicolas Joly and others. It was an excellent beginning to my trip; the event was naturally strong on the Loire, but also present were numerous viticulteurs from further afield.

Indeed, it was to further afield that I had looked a day or two beforehand, when looking for something with which to bid my temporary farewell to home. My hand settled on a bottle from Bollinger which, whilst obviously a representative of Champagne, does at least have some Loire connections; the firm has long had an interest in the region following their investment in Langlois-Chateau.

Bollinger La Grande Année 1990

Bollinger's Grande Anné, which comes in both white and rosé incarnations, sees five years on its lees and is aged under cork rather than crown seal, this latter practice being the norm for much of Champagne. It has long given excellent value, as although this was for many years Bollinger's 'entry-level' vintage cuvée, sitting comfortably on the step between the non-vintage Special Cuvée and the esoteric duo of RD and Vieilles Vignes Françaises, it was often available at a very fair price. This era seems to have passed, however, I think the direct result of a new marketing strategy at Bollinger which has moved the price of Grande Année northwards. Fortunately I have some nicely maturing bottles in the cellar, not least the 1990, a hugely successful vintage for Champagne, which I can drink whilst I find suitable and more affordable replacements.

And so onto the wine; the 1990 Bollinger La Grande Année has a rich, light golden hue in the glass, and a sparse bead of moderate sized bubbles. The nose starts off a little muddy and confused, but I think it just needs a little air contact, as with some time it settles to reveal an array of mature aromas, of coffee, toffee, brazil nuts, honey, mushrooms and truffles, with a little note of burnt caramel. I was at first concerned that there may be a whiff of oxidation, but this worry soon disappeared as the wine opened up, and it seemed to integrate in the glass into a very nice, savoury, winey style. Full, but vibrant and sparkling, with a pervasive mousse, it has a defined and incisive but quite fine character, with evolved flavours nicely supported by the acidity and that touch of sparkle. An excellent wine which has certainly advanced in the last two years, but it isn't over the hill yet. 18.5/20 (2/2/09)

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