Bollinger is the latest house seeking to capitalise on strong consumer demand for vintage Champagne, releasing its RD 2002 and hinting that a RD 2004 could be next.
Only a few thousand bottles of Bollinger RD 2002 are believed to have been produced, although specific numbers are unavailble from the house.
Some UK merchants, including Fine & Rare and Berry Bros & Rudd, have started selling a case of six bottles for a trade price of just over £600 ex-duty and ex-VAT. The recommended retail price will be £900, with one bottle priced at £175, according to importer Mentzendorff.
RD, which stands for recently disgorged, is a concept devised by Madame Bollinger in the 1960s following pressure from merchants in the US for her namesake house to create a new top-end cuvee. The first RD vintage was 1952.
Several vintage Champagne releases have seen strong demand in the past couple of years, most notably Krug 2003 and Dom Perignon 2004.
Sales of prestige cuvees have outperformed a relatively flat global Champagne market, according to both Pernod Ricard and LVMH-owned Moet Hennessy, while vintage Champagne’s stock has also risen in the wine investment market, helping buyers to diversify from left bank Bordeaux.
Joss Fowler, of Fine & Rare merchant, said Bollinger RD 2002s ‘have sold well on release’.
Bollinger’s chef de cave, Gilles Descotes, told Decanter.com it was ‘quite an easy decision’ to make an RD from the 2002 vintage, which he described as a great year. He said it is likely the next RD will come from the 2004 vintage, although no decision has yet been taken.
The effect of disgorgement on a Champagne’s taste has been more widely discussed in recent years, and some houses, including Bollinger, Bruno Paillard and Krug, publish specific disgorgement dates for consumers. English sparkling wine producer Nyetimber followed suit earlier this year.
But, Descotes believes consumer knowledge of disgorgement itself – the removal of yeasts after secondary fermentation, prior to dosage – is still limited.
‘Disgorgement is one of the most important steps in the process. But for many consumers, it’s too difficult,’ he said.
He added that Bollinger RD is a brand that symbolises a certain quality level, as much as it focuses on disgorgement. Bollinger disgorges its Champagne in batches several times per year.
Written by Chris Mercer