The discovery in its historical cellars in Aÿ came as a result of efforts to create a detailed inventory.
During a mammoth restoration project started in 2012 under the guidance of cellar master Gilles Descôtes (pictured), workers discovered a stash of venerable bottles and magnums hidden behind a wall of empty old bottles in a small, abandoned cellar, divided up by old wooden panels, previously thought to be empty.
The reserve wines found here, kept separately as they still are today according to cru and vintage, included wines dating back to 1886 Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, an 1893 Verzenay – a village that remains at the heart of the Bollinger style today – and 1914 Aÿ. Inspired by this discovery, Bollinger President Jerôme Philipon decided they would create two ‘new cellars’ – one named La Réserve to house the single village reserve wines and the second ‘Galérie 1829’ to show off the 4,000 bottles successfully restored in this three year project and involving vintages going back to 1830, the year after the company was founded.
At a special tasting last month (June 21), Bollinger opened bottles from what Philipon considers to be its ‘best’, or perhaps ‘most significant’ vintage each decade, kicking off with Vielles Vignes Françaises 1969, then Bollinger RD 1952 - the original releases of these two cuveés - followed by the 1945, 1937, 1924 and 1914 vintages.
The assembled international journalists were then treated to one of the only 13 remaining, successfully restored bottles of Bollinger 1830, 54 of which were unearthed during the project, but out of these only ‘a baker’s dozen’ judged to be drinkable.