Taittinger at the World Cup, Lanson at Wimbledon, the link between champagne and a glorious summer of sport continues later this week with Grand Départ for the 1001st Tour de France in Leeds on Saturday. And if you are quick there still a chance until midday today to win VIP tickets to the stage 3 #London finish of Tour on Monday afternoon (7 July) care of De Castelnau Champagne and Spirited Wines http://bit.ly/TDFcomp .
You have rather longer to enjoy the limited edition bottle of its excellent, richly flavoured Brut Réserve which De Castelnau has produced especially to celebrate its three year association with the Tour. It’s available at Spirited Wines priced £29.99.
At the recent London Wine Fair one of the highlights for me was the chance to taste De Castelnau 1990 vintage in jeroboam. Still fresh, but gloriously developed and complex vintage champagne like this is a joy to drink. You can get an idea of the vinous pleasure it gave by trying the current De Castelnau Brut 2000 vintage style — another ripe vintage for Champagne — that Spirited Wines sells at £38.68.
Bruno Paillard has accused Bollinger of copying the shape of his ‘unique’ bottle in a press release sent to UK journalists and magazines this afternoon (3rd August). At the start of the release entitled: “When Bollinger copies Bruno Paillard” it says: ‘Even when introduced as an innovation, an irresistible urge to make it rhyme with imitation takes us when we discover the new Bollinger bottle…
And between a picture of the two bottles it continues: ‘See for yourself to which extent it appropriates the exclusive bottle designed in 1984 by Bruno Paillard for the wines bearing his name.’
There is then a quite lengthy quote as follows from Paillard detailing his reaction. “I am deeply shocked that a house – who by the way advertises an ‘ethic’ charter and whose direction I regularly meet every month at the Union des Maisons de Champagne board never has the courtesy to discuss this subject – allow themselves to copy an existing model. At this stage we only have superimposed pictures of their bottle on ours and recorded they were rigorously identical. We will of course ask an expertise on their bottle, and if it turns out they are the exact same model, we will have to start a judicial process, our bottle being registered in many countries.
“I designed this bottle almost 30 years ago, not only to distinguish our House, but also to increase the exchange surface between the wine and the lees, increasing this way the complexity of our wines. This antique shape may remind of a small magnum, but it is not its goal.”
Posing the question to himself as to whether imitation is the sincerest form of flattery Paillard ends by saying: “Maybe, but in such case one can also consider it a servile copy. Which does not make me feel flattered but attacked to tell the truth.”
Bollinger’s offices in Aÿ are currently closed for a pre-harvest break but a spokesman issued the following statement: “We do not wish to comment directly on claims made last week regarding the redesigned shape of our bottle. However, as explained at the initial launch in May, we would like to underline the fact that this redesign drew inspiration from the collection of bottles in our cellars which date back to the mid-19th century.”
Bollinger has introduced a new ‘magnum shaped’ bottle for its champagnes based on a bottle dating from 1846 found in the company cellars in Aÿ.
As well as looking more distinctive, the unique shape with a narrower neck, initially to be used for halves, bottles, magnums and jeroboams of Special Cuvée, comes much closer to replicating the ideal ratio of air to liquid found in the traditional magnum, a relationship which affects the rate of oxidation in this format. Experience tells us champagne matures more slowly in a magnum and for some reason always seems to taste better, so it appears that Bollinger is onto a winner here.
“In the new bottle format the speed of ageing will slow,” says Bollinger MD Jérôme Philipon, “keeping the wine fresher for longer. We have been working on the project for four years. The brut rosé will move to the new shape next year and we have bottled the 2008 La Grande Année in it too. The unique bottle shape will also enhance the authenticity of our brand and while it weighs the same we will be able to put 600 as opposed to 500 bottles on a pallet, making it more eco-friendly too.”