About Pol Roger Champagne
Pol Roger is one of the best known, and traditional Champagne brands in the UK, most famous amongst aficionados of the brand, as being Winston Churchill’s favourite Champagne. With a history of over 150 years, it’s a historic brand, with a very loyal fan base. It’s a style of Champagne, where the Pinot Noir grape dominates, given, rich, fleshy, full-bodied Champagnes, which have a unique appeal. The Pol Roger brand of Champagne now sells over 1.5 million bottles per year.
Pol Roger has always stood strong, and true to its traditions, in terms of levels of quality, image, and style. It is one of the few Champagne houses, still owned and controlled by the founding family.
Pol Roger was founded in 1849, and now owns over 87 hectares of vineyards, across the Champagne region, with the majority being close to Epernay and the Cote de Blancs. Pol Roger himself, was born in 1831, in the village of Ay, near Epernay, and set up as a wine merchant at the age of 17, with the first Champagne under his name being produced in 1849.
The late 19th century was the golden age for Champagne, both in France, and increasingly in England, and Pol’s son came to England to establish the brand. It soon became the fashionable and much loved Champagne brand, drunk by the Prince of Wales and Prime Minister Gladstone. But it is the association with the wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, for which the brand is best known.
By the early 20th century, the brand had become the favourite for royalty and people of prominence, being served at state banquets, and other high profile occasions. Winston Churchill became a customer in 1908, and was soon enamoured of the brand, and became a friend of the family. He maintained a regular stock of Champagne, right through the war years, claiming ‘in defeat I need it, in victory I deserve it’. When Churchill died in 1965, Pol Roger paid homage to its most famous client, by putting a black border on all bottles of the ‘White Foil’ non vintage Champagne, which to this day, remains, although softened to navy blue.
Post war, the Pol Roger family embarked on an acquisition plan, to purchase vineyards, to offset the growing power of the cooperatives, so that they had control of land and production. They now own 87 hectares, across the 3 key grape producing areas of Montagne de Reims, Vallee de la Marne, and Cote de Blancs, which produce a large proportion of the grapes they require, and lowers their reliance on buying from other growers.
The wines are all made in the very deep, cool cellars under the winery, which run for a total of 7km, and go as far as 33m underground, with some of the coolest fermentation and storage temperatures in the region. The cellars are carved out of the chalk soil below Epernay, and the intensely cool temperatures are responsible for slow, and prolonged ageing, and contribute to Pol Roger’s extremely fine bubbles. Over 7.5 million bottles are stored in this underground maze.
What Styles Of Wine Do Pol Roger Produce?
The Pol Roger range starts with a range of non-vintage wines, and progresses to the high echelons of some truly unique vintage wines. The brand is famous in general for being full-bodied, and very elegant, with very fine bubbles.
All Champagnes are made from a blend of only 3 permitted grape varieties, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, and Pol Roger has always had a strong element of Pinot Noir, which adds to the texture, structure and fullness of the wine.
The range starts with non vintage, in the form of a brut reserve, and then, following a similar style, an intensely dry Pure NV, and a sweeter Rich NV. The degree of sweetness in Champagne is determined by the amount of ‘dosage’, or sweetening that a Champagne is given when the secondary fermentation has been completed, the bubbles are there, and the wine is ready. The Pure Extra brut has a racy minerality and intense crispness, whilst the Rich, is a sweeter, off dry style, which appeals to many markets. Brut reserve is of course, the elegant classic. All these wines have a minimum 33% Pinot Noir as part of the blend.
Vintage – the range then moves into a vintage selection; The 1999 brut shows intense, classic brioche, honeysuckle and ripe fruit intensity. The 1999 Blancs de blancs, is a delightfully smooth, approachable, and delicate wine, produced entirely from the Chardonnay grape, whilst the 2002 Rose is a deeply coloured, intensely flavoured rose, with over 50% of the fleshy Pinot Noir in the blend.
Cuvee Winston Churchill – the pinnacle of the Pol Roger range, this is a blend, produced in honour of its most famous supporter, and the actual blend is still a closely guarded secret. It is made only in the very best vintages, and is available in magnums only. It is believed to be a blend of predominantly Pinot Noir, with the rest made up of Chardonnay, to produce, the robust, full-bodied style that Churchill so loved.