Bollinger is one of France’s most prestigious and historical Champagne estates. It’s roots extend to the 17th century, when the first family members acquired land in France's Champagne region. In the 19th century the business officially took the name Bollinger, which was the name of one of the partners. By the late 19th century Bollinger was famous and exporting around the world. Today the family still owns the estate, though it is run by a professional executive who is not a member of the family. The nearly 400 acres are planted to Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. More than 70% of Bollinger’s vineyards are in grand cru or premier cru plots, and two–thirds of all production comes from the estate’s vineyards. Very few Champagne estates grow such a high percentage of the grapes they use. Along with Dom Perignon, Bollinger is considered in the very top ranks of Champagne’s best estates.
Champagne is a small, beautiful wine growing region northeast of Paris whose famous name is misused a million times a day. As wine enthusiasts and all French people are well aware, only sparkling wines produced in Champagne from grapes grown in Champagne can be called Champagne. Sparkling wines produced anywhere else, including in other parts of France, must be called something besides Champagne. Champagne producers are justifiably protective of their wines and the prestige associated with true Champagne. Though the region was growing grapes and making wines in ancient times, it began specializing in sparkling wine in the 17th century, when a Benedictine monk named Dom Pierre Pérignon formulated a set guidelines to improve the quality of the local sparkling wines. Despite legends to the contrary, Dom Pérignon did not “invent” sparkling wine, but his rules about aggressive pruning, small yields and multiple pressings of the grapes were widely adopted, and by the 18th and 19th centuries Champagne had become the wine of choice in fashionable courts and palaces throughout Europe. Today there are 75,000 acres of vineyards in Champagne growing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Champagne’s official appellation system classifies villages as Grand Cru or Premier Cru, though there are also many excellent Champagnes that simply carry the regional appellation. Along with well-known international Champagne houses there are numerous so-called “producer Champagnes,” meaning wines made by families who, usually for several or more generations, have worked their own vineyards and produced Champagne only from their own grapes.