A legendary tasting of Bollinger R.D.


In the course of a career in the wine trade one can expect to attend a few tastings which might fall into the category of “special” but in July I wasBollinger R.D. Selection privileged to attend a presentation which will live long in the memory, and must rank as one of the most extraordinary in my 35-year wine trade career.

It will come as little surprise that the organiser was Champagne Bollinger, who decided to mark the 50th anniversary of the London launch of their prestige cuvée, Bollinger R.D. The House decided to pour 12 vintages of R.D., starting with the inaugural year of 1952 and running through to 1997. All the wines were disgorged in February 2011, except the 1952 which had been disgorged in 1969.

The tasting took place in the Michelin-starred restaurant Jules Verne, halfway up the Eiffel Tower, not the easiest place to get to, served by a single, small lift, but blessed with glorious views once you get there. Bollinger’s Chef de Cave, Mathieu Kauffman, was on hand to talk us through the various wines, explaining the vagaries of each year’s weather which contributed to the style.

Alun Griffiths MW with Ch'ng Poh Tiong, Editor of The Wine ReviewI append full tasting notes below but the overriding impression was one of amazing freshness and vitality in the wines, even those of more than 40 years of age.

Those attending came from all around the world and comprised a cross-section of top wine journalists, principals from the House of Bollinger, members of the Broccoli family, marking the House’s long association with the James Bond films, a top London sommelier, myself and some leading wine bloggers. Hardly any of these vintages can still be found commercially so it was a rare treat indeed to be invited to taste them.

My warmest thanks to Bollinger for an unforgettable experience.


Yeasty, bready nose with fabulous aromas of stone-fruit, Mirabelle plum and peach. On the palate a honeyed ripeness, soft peachy fruit, wonderful maturity, hints of caramel. Quite buttery, then fine acidity on the finish.


Quite closed and backward on the nose. Marvellous harmony and balance on the palate. Still extraordinarily youthful, lots of vigour. Red fruit character much to the fore, raspberry and red cherry. Great length.


Restrained, fine, elegant nose, hints of red fruit jam with orange peel. Beautiful purity of fruit, much more evolved than the 1996. Magnificent richness, very complete and long. Ready to drink now.

As one would expect from this hot year, a pronounced aroma of exotic fruit Bollinger R.D. Corkwith a strong counterpoint of wild mushrooms, especially cèpes and mousserons; baked apples, roasted nuts and honey also much in evidence. On the palate hints of caramel and vanilla point to great ripeness in the fruit, with citrus peel and Asian spice adding to the complexity. Powerful, long finish.


Deep gold colour, honeyed but very fresh, youthful nose, with notes of fruits-in-liqueur, mushrooms and brioche. Very, very fine on the palate, with ripe yellow plum and white peach, followed by piercingly fresh lemon-peel acidity on the finish. Amazing length. A personal favourite from a very strong field!


Deep gold colour; pronounced musky nose of mushroom hazelnuts and citrus peel, with one taster spotting ginseng. Others found white truffle, hints of coffee; more exotic fruit than was found in the more classical years such as 1988 or 1996. Very fine acidity and a long, persistent finish.


Aroma of macerated yellow stone-fruits, plums and nectarines. Notes of honeyed almonds and hazelnuts on the palate, excellent freshness and lively youthfulness. Great persistence and balance, exceptional length.


A very hot summer, and yet surprisingly some slightly green, vegetal notes on the bouquet. On the palate, however, immense richness and depth. Still remarkably unevolved for such a hot year. Not quite as well-knit and harmonious as some but still considerable zest and length.


A tiny crop, after hail wreaked havoc in the vines. Aromas of mushrooms, dried apricot, hazelnuts and oranges-in-brandy. Very saline and mouth-watering. Wonderful freshness. A lot of the sparkle has gone so the quality of the base wine is revealed in all its glory, and outstanding it is, too. Extraordinary length.


Deep gold. Very hard to write a note as this was sheer perfection. Winey, vinous, long, round and harmonious. Mozart in a glass.


Smoky, honeyed, spicy, yeasty, bready nose. Very full and powerful on the palate. Very opulent, not quite the freshness of the 1961. A hot summer brought the grapes to excellent maturity and, if anything, this has lent the wines a touch of heaviness on the finish with the acidity only moderate.


Noble rot in September has imbued the bouquet with exotic notes, honeyed apricot and peach. Roasted nuts are in evidence and, for the only occasion in this tasting, coconut. Lovely velvet texture in the mouth, the acidity slightly low as one would expect from botrytis-affected fruit, but still a remarkable wine at nearly 60 years of age.