'R. D.' stands for récemment degorgé, a term not always well understood. A fine non-vintage Champagne will usually spend about three years on the yeasts before being disgorged and released, while a vintage Champagne stays at least five years on the yeasts. In 1961 Bollinger created a new style by leaving its 1952 vintage wine on the yeasts for at least eight years before disgorgement. The precise proportion of the blend will vary but it usually composed from about 16 different vineyards (around 75% Grands Crus and the remainder Premiers Crus), while two-thirds of the grapes are Pinot Noir and the remainder Chardonnay. The thinking behind the process is that long ageing on the yeasts will keep a wine fresh, while giving greater fragrance, depth, and complexity. Moreover, the richness imparted by the yeasts allows the wine to receive a lower dosage than usual, in R. D.'s case 4 grams per litre rather than the more usual 8 to 10. The concept is not without controversy, as some experts maintain that once disgorged, the wine is already evolved and will not benefit greatly from further ageing in bottle. The Bollinger team disagree, believing the wines will still age further - and rewardingly. The following R. D. wines were served alongside a lunch in London in mid-July. By Stephen Brook

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