I had lunch yesterday with Ghislaine de Montgolfier, the somewhat impish but very elegant chairman of Bollinger, which has just released its first non-vintage rosé Champagne. Madame Lily Bollinger is of course responsible for the classic Champagne statement, "I drink it 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 I drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it— unless I'm thirsty." She also said, according to M. de Montgolfier, that rosé Champagne was the wine of the bordello, so Bollinger wasn't going to make any.

Well, things change. I don't know if they still serve rosé Champagne in bordellos, but Bollinger decided about six years ago that they would make some non-vintage pink bubbles. "Part of the problem," de Montgolfier said, "is that you need great red wine. The red wine makes the rosé. We have very low yields for our red, and use Burgundian techniques." Bollinger also, as the few and the lucky have experienced, makes a stunning red coteaux Champenois from vineyard in Aÿ, La Côte aux Enfants. I had it once, several years back; my memory is that it had Pommard-like muscularity, which surprised me. In other words, they've got no problems on the red wine front.

Anyway, the Bollinger NV Rosé Brut ($100) is very Bollinger—substantial generosity backed up with the spine to carry it off. The scent recalls wild strawberries and flowers; it's not a savory Champagne, more fruit driven, but the flavors are very pure. I liked it just fine, but it was overshadowed by the Bollinger 1999 La Grande Année ($115) that we also drank. Creamy and dense, with layers of flavor (sweet dough, apple, tangerine, spice, yeasty notes), this was simply stunning Champagne. So as much as the rosé is fun, I'd happily drop the additional bucks and drink the Grande Année. If I had the bucks in the first place, that is. Oh well!