The story began with Athanase de Villermont, the youngest son of a noble family with a brilliant destiny. A great soldier who shone during the American War of Independence, he inherited an extensive estate from his family in the Aÿ area. He immediately foresaw the extraordinary potential of the wines of Champagne, but as an aristocrat he was forbidden to become involved in trade. He then met Joseph Bollinger, a widely travelled German who had left his country of birth to learn about the Champagne wine trade, and Paul Renaudin, a local man who was fascinated by the world of wine. The firm of Renaudin-Bollinger & Cie was founded on 6th February 1829. Joseph took care of sales and Paul of the cellar. Athanase had founded a champagne House that was to endure through the centuries.
Joseph Bollinger married Louise-Charlotte, daughter of Athanase, in 1837. In time their sons, Joseph and then Georges, took over the business. From the phylloxera crisis to the turmoil of the Great War, they were to face some of the House’s greatest challenges. Under the guidance of the two brothers, Bollinger nonetheless gained great renown and extended its vineyards considerably. In 1920 Jacques Bollinger, son of Georges, found himself at the helm of the House: a weighty burden for a 24-year old. He faced the challenge with courage, aided by his cousins Pierre and then Yves Moret de Rocheprise; for the strength of Bollinger also lies in its powerful family ties. Sophisticated, cultivated and a fluent English-speaker, Jacques increased Bollinger's prominence across the Channel. He guided the House with great wisdom through the difficult years of recession and the Second World War, and as Mayor of Aÿ he was committed to protecting his village.
When Elisabeth Bollinger (born Law de Lauriston-Boubers) married Jacques in 1923, she was also to become passionately involved with the House’s destiny. She was only 42 when she lost her husband at the height of the war. Without hesitation and with great dignity she stepped in to take up the torch. "Madame Jacques”, as she was known within the House, threw herself heart and soul into her new role. During her many visits abroad her natural grace and charm worked wonders. Cheerful and witty, Madame Bollinger was nonetheless a formidable strategist. A dauntless businesswoman, she was also highly perfectionist and would tolerate nothing short of excellence. She was always ready to innovate, and was the driving force behind the highly original Bollinger R.D. cuvée. The familiar image of her cycling through the vineyards is imprinted in everyone's memories.
With her customary common sense, Madame Bollinger gathered around her those family members who were most able to follow in her footsteps. Firstly she taught Claude d’Hautefeuille, her niece’s husband, the ins and outs of the House. In 1950 he became a Director and launched an ambitious modernisation programme whilst respecting Bollinger’s quality requirements. Madame Bollinger appointed him Chairman in 1971 but remained closely involved until her death six years later. Madame Bollinger’s nephew, Christian Bizot, took over from Claude in 1978. A great traveller, like his Aunt Lily before him he made a point of meeting with sommeliers, restaurant owners and wine merchants to promote the House’s wines. A great Chairman, he was well known for his outspokenness and informality.
In 1994 it was none other than the great-great-grandson of founder Joseph Bollinger who was to become head of the House. After starting his career in Chili, Ghislain de Montgolfier continued to develop the House with the pursuit of excellence as a guiding light. He continues to maintain a policy of voluntarily limiting amounts produced to increase quality, while remaining true to the Bollinger spirit. A tireless worker, Ghislain has a great sense of humour and combines scientific rigour with enthusiasm for success. In 2007 his technical expertise led him to be elected as head of the Board of the Union des Maisons de Champagne and co-chairman of the Comité Champagne.
In 2008, for the first time in its history, the House placed its future into the care of a Chairman who was not a family member. Their choice fell on Jérôme Philipon, originally from the Champagne region, who had led an impressive career with large industrial groups. The choice might be unexpected - but Bollinger has never hesitated to reject conformity for the good of the House and its wines! With the Bollinger family’s support, Jérôme Philipon has extended his predecessor’s programme of modernisation and investment. With him, the House has continued to preserve its traditional expertise while incorporating the best of new technologies for the future development of the brand, both in terms of quality and commercial growth.