Let's celebrate "Mrs Jacques", Lily Bollinger

Updated: 3 days ago

Let’s celebrate “Mrs Jacques”

On this international Women’s Day, let’s talk about a monument.

This monument is going to change soon, and everyone lives in fear.



Betting odds on who will it the next James Bond


Without women, this monument would not exist.

So far 51 women and 6 men have contributed to this monument, and if the rumours are true, it seems that in future it is set to exist without men.

What we are talking about?

The James Bond series of course!, but this is International Women’s Day, so let’s celebrate the women!



Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry in Die another Day


And here, we will talk about one woman that we have never seen in the James Bond movies, but who has been present for the last 40 years.

A woman who has contributed to the James Bond Legend way more than the 51 women we talked about (even more than Judi Dench!), as her legacy has been married to James Bond for the last 40 years.


Judy Dench in Skyfall


A woman without whom the James Bond series would not be the same.

Lady Bollinger, the mother of the Champagne brand Bollinger, a Champagne as iconic as James Bond himself!


007 Champagne Bollinger


The beginning

Elisabeth Lauriston married Jacques Bollinger when she was 24 years old and embraced the business of champagne like a real French! (She was, in fact, Scottish).

She kept the house alive through WWII and German occupation.

When her husband died when she was 42, she took over this 100-year-old champagne house and was at the helm of the company ’til she was 72 years old.

During these 30 years of reign, she brought the house to the next level.


Elisabeth Lauriston Bollinger


How is champagne made?

In order to understand her achievements we first have to describe the procedure by which champagne is made.

Step 1: The harvest

Grape harvest in Champagne


The grapes are hand-picked, usually between August and October and pressed to obtain their juice.

There are 7 officially allowed grape varieties, however, 99.9% of all champagnes are made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, or Pinot Meunier, or mixtures thereof.

Step 2: The first fermentation


Champagne first fermentation


Fermentation is a metabolic process that uses yeasts to convert the sugars in the juice into alcohol.

The juice now becomes a wine.

Step 3: The Assemblage


Blending champagne


Aka the art of blending.

Wines from different years are combined to achieve the best possible taste.

Step 4: The second fermentation


Bottling bottles after second fermentation


At this point, sugar syrup is added to to the wine for the yeast to ferment.

This is very important, as it is in this step that the carbon dioxide, which is a by product of the fermentation, is captured in the bottles.

This makes the wine a sparkling wine.

The amount of sugar added determines whether the resulting champagne will be (Extra)Brut, (Demi)Sec, or Doux.

Step 5: The Aging


Champagne maturation


This is the time during which the champagne is kept in the wine cellar in order to mature and to develop all its aromas.

The minimum aging time to be legally allowed to sell the sparkling wine as champagne is 15 months.

The best (and most expensive!) champagnes are aged for 5 years or more.

Step 6: The Riddling


The Riddling


The Champagne bottle is placed upside down in a holder at an angle of 75°.

Each day, the riddler gives the bottle a 1/8th of a turn whilst keeping it upside down.

This procedure forces the dead yeast cells floating in the wine to precipitate into the bottleneck from where they are subsequently removed in the next step.

Step 7: The Disgorging


Natural disgorgement


The inverted bottle necks are cooled so that the precipitate collected in the bottlenecks freezes to a small block of ice, the bottles are turned upright and temporarily opened so that the precipitate is ejected out by the pressure in the bottle.

Then the bottle is filled to replace the missing volume and fitted with a plain Champagne cork and halter.

These 7 steps are called “La methode Champenoise” and it is strict adherence to this method in addition to the stipulation that the grapes be grown and harvested in the Champagne region, that is the legal requirement to be able to call a sparkling wine “champagne”, and with this little primer in champagne production let’s come back to Lady Bollinger.

As said above, she brought the Bollinger Champagne house to the next level, and she did so by introducing a number of innovations.

Innovation

Disgorgement date

In 1961, she launched the Bollinger R.D. (Recently Disgorged).

In step 7 of the method outlined above, the champagne is aged at least 4 times longer than it is usually done.

That was tricky because the longer the wine is left in contact with the dead yeast the more complex it becomes to control the taste of the wine. But the longer the wine is aged, and the sooner it is drunk after having been disgorged, the fresher the complex aroma will appear.[1]

If you like champagne, this is a blessing!

So, in 1961, she was the first to put a disgorgement date on the bottles, which was a little revolution.


Bollinger RD 1961

Vieilles vignes

Grape phylloxera is an insect pest that infected French wines grapes in the late 19th century. It has been eradicated by replacing the grapes in use in those days by others more resistant to the pest.


Phylloxera nymphs feeding on the roots


The Bollinger family still grows some of these original grapes. These Pinot Noir, in the region of Aÿ are very precious. They are classified Grand Cru and are protected.

The yield is very low but the taste is very intense. Lady Bollinger launched the Bollinger, vieilles vignes in 1969.

Organic farming

Out of conviction, Lily Bollinger went on using the traditional way of farming champagne, despite the mockeries of her peers.

These practices, such as organic fertilization, sensible waste management, preservation of landscape and biodiversity, made the Bollinger house the first “High Environmental Value” certified champagne farm 30 years after her death.[2]

The house is still family owned today, a fact that probably gave them the freedom to live their values over all these years.

“For us it is the guarantee that the mastodons will not go into our niche. Our strategy is to develop a product of distinct quality, a wine that they cannot make, because it is too complicated, too manual, too artisanal, too distinctive”. — Etienne Bizot [3]

International fame

In 1911, with her husband, she launched her special cuvée, where the fermentation takes place in wooden barrels, to add complexity to the final taste of the champagne.



Bollinger Special Cuvée


This champagne is made of 60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Meunier.

After the death of her husband, she strengthened the relationship between Bollinger and the English crown.

The royals had (and probably still have) a taste for champagnes rich in Pinot Noir and Bollinger has produced champagnes in this characteristic taste.

The fact that the house is a royal warrant holder is a great testimony of this relationship.[4]

Today, 35% of Bollinger’s sales go to the UK and it is probably no coincidence that Bollinger is the drink of choice of Patsy and Edina of the cult comedy series “Absolutely fabulous”.


Jennifer Saunders drinking Bollinger in Absolutely Fabulous


To finish where we started, it is now 40 years since James Bond first drank Bollinger champagne, an anniversary which will be celebrated by the launch of a new cuvee in 2021, aptly named Cuvee 007.


Cheers!




“I drink Champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone.
When I have company I consider it obligatory.
I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am.
Otherwise, I never touch it―unless I’m thirsty.”

Lily Bollinger, (1899–1977)



[1] http://www.vinzealot.com/how-difference-is-a-recently-disgorged-champagne-bollinger-1997-r-d (Last accessed on March 7th, 2021)

[2] https://www.champagne-bollinger.com (Last accessed on March 7th, 2021)

[3] https://lentreprise.lexpress.fr/rh-management/bollinger-une-certaine-idee-du-champagne_1537518.html (Last accessed on March 7th, 2021)

[4] https://www.royalwarrant.org/company/champagne-bollinger-sa (Last accessed on March 7th, 2021)

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