Having just organised and led a customer trip to Veneto it was good to enjoy the hospitality of Bollinger and let someone else take the strain. It’s an understatement of the highest proportions to say that Champagne Bollinger’s budget is far bigger than mine but I have to say Venice in the sunshine was more pleasant than Reims on a cold, windy day however I’m not complaining because it was a rare treat that only a few get to experience. We were part of a Vin Clair tasting attended by representatives from many countries; particularly memorable were a lively Hungarian contingent who were great fun.

Bollinger owned, Ayala’s hospitality was indeed wonderful, and enjoyed to the full by some, although good grower Champagnes such as my very own Roger Adnot and Colin take a lot of beating purely in taste terms.

Bollinger itself is one of the few grand marque houses which opens its doors by appointment only and makes, I believe, one of the finest non vintages available (listed at a highly competitive price by Wilks & Co.). Following this exclusive tour we took part in the Vin Clair tasting, an interesting exercise which showed how difficult the cellar master’s job is, trying the new and pretty acidic wines, from different grape varieties and vineyards, before deciding on a blend to reflect the house style. A job made even trickier as he has to predict how the wines will taste after a minimum of three years and often to ten or fifteen in bottle before release.