For those who haven’t been or dream of going, Champagne, France feels like a faraway, mystical place—a land of rolling hills and history-rich vineyards whose primary claim to fame is its bubbly namesake. For those who’ve had the pleasure to visit, it’s all that and more: charming, intoxicating (oftentimes literally) and well worth the 46-minute train ride from Paris to Reims, the commercial center of the Champagne region, and the 33-minute trip by car to the southernmost part of the Grand Cru appellation, the finest of all classifications.
In the town of Aÿ, where Champagne Bollinger is based, monitored, manicured vineyards—of which 85% are rated Grand Cru—sit within a bird’s eye view of the company’s primary residence, which has long hosted private events, friends of the estate and the occasional media member.
Now, though, the notoriously humble, family-owned brand is opening up and turning a portion of its aforementioned Aÿ residence into a 20-room hotel. It’ll also launch the most advanced cellar in the region, capable of storing 5,000 228-liter barrels and hosting up to 20 people in two separate tasting rooms. The personal estate of the brand’s matriarch, Elisabeth Bollinger, including her iconic courtyard, will be converted into an event space, where up to 200 guests can gather, sip and savor the splendor of the surrounding grounds.
According to brand insiders, including longtime fans, this is a significant evolution; Bollinger is built on tradition, and the brand celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2029. Their traditions, upheld in spite of industry-wide adjustments, has kept them among Champagnes most respected Maisons. In the 20th century, for example, Madame Bollinger marked her commitment to vinifying her wines in oak barrels, a hallmark of the house’s production process that lends a creamy, elegant softness to the final product.
“It is the traditional methods that count, even if they appear outdated,” she famously said. “The quality of my wines is proof of this.”
And now, Bollinger will take these wines on a world tour as part of the brand’s bicentenary celebrations. The house’s first stop was New York, an obvious starting point for a series of events that will span the next several years. Officially titled Maison Bollinger, each one-night-only affair transforms iconic venues in equally iconic cities—for example, New York’s Astor House on the Upper East Side—into expressions of the estate’s storied past. The evening was equal parts Bollinger’s signature savoir-faire and an unveiling of the family’s bubbly, offbeat personality: elaborate spreads, white table cloth tables, and, of course, champagne.
“Maison Bollinger is a first-of-its-kind execution for Champagne Bollinger, and we are proud to welcome the world into our home and celebrate our incredible heritage,” Charles-Armand de Belenet, managing director for Champagne Bollinger, says. “Every artifact throughout Maison Bollinger nods to our history and the incredible aspirations of the late Madame Bollinger, who is known for modernizing the maison and introducing Bollinger for the first time in New York. It is important that we continue to honor her extraordinary legacy, which is why we’re pleased to launch Maison Bollinger in a city that holds so much meaning.”
Dates will follow, but they’ve yet to be announced—future attendees should expect more of the same, though: sensory pleasures of every variety, from sonic accompaniments to expert-led tastings, high-class snacks with A-list guests. Above all else, the evenings are meant to be a memorable first impression of the maison, even for those who’ve long appreciated their wines.