The Most British of Champagnes
Established in 1849 during turbulent times in Europe by talented 19-year-old Pol Roger, this House quickly became very successful. The master blender Pol was succeeded by his two sons Maurice and Georges. At the turn of the 20th century, the Roger family changed its surname to Pol-Roger, and to this day remains one of the few great family-owned enterprises in Champagne. Pol Roger has always been known as the ‘gentleman’s champagne’ (great quality at a reasonable price) and a firm favourite amongst the ruling classes in Britain, its biggest market.
A Pint a Day
Pol Roger’s most famous fan was in fact British war-time Prime Minister, Winston Churchill − the eldest son of the aristocrat Lord Randolph Churchill − who was particularly fond of brand ambassador Odette Pol-Roger (one of a trio of famously beautiful sisters nicknamed ‘the Wallace Collection’) and even owned a race horse named ‘Pol Roger’ after her.
Winston Churchill was known to drink a pint of Pol Roger champagne a day for his health. However, despite his lifelong fame and upper class origins, Churchill always struggled to keep his income at a level that would fund his extravagant lifestyle. After leaving the War Cabinet during World War I following the disastrous Battle of Gallipoli, Churchill sought active service to rehabilitate his reputation.
Tea and Condensed Milk
“He was with the Grenadier Guards who were dry at battalion headquarters. They very much liked tea and condensed milk, which had no great appeal to Winston, but alcohol was permitted in the front line, in the trenches. So he suggested to the colonel that he really ought to see more of the war and get into the front line. This was highly commended by the colonel, who thought it was a very good thing to do.” (Quote from Lord Deedes at a Royal Historical Society Event in 2001).
Apparently, Churchill really could not live without his daily pint (taken in a pewter tankard to convince his wife he was in fact drinking beer, not champagne), but perhaps it was his champagne that gave him the courage to lead the British people from the brink of defeat during World War II.
“Dinner, in peace or war, tended to be the longest single event of the day, accompanied by vintage Pol Roger champagne and fine Claret or Burgundy … The quality of the food was superb … Mrs Georgina Landemare was not only an exceptional cook; she could, when required (which was quite often) put back the time of a meal at short notice.” − Richard Hough, author of Winston & Clementine: The Triumph of the Churchills.
Churchill certainly considered the necessities of life to be: “Hot baths, cold champagne, new peas and old Brandy .” When he died, bottles of Pol Roger white foil were given a black edge (as a token of mourning) and then in 1975, when the House launched its prestige vintage blend, they called it ‘Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill’.
KEY CHARACTERISTICS: Medium dry and vivacious well-rounded champagne with exemplary mousse, which is quite floral and lemony in youth and wonderfully biscuity when aged.
BLEND: 34% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Noir, 33% Pinot Meunier.
Pol Roger Cuvée Winston Churchill
KEY CHARACTERISTICS: Exquisite balance and finesse − soft and fruit driven in youth, develops great richness and complexity with age − magnificently classy, long-lived champagne.
BLEND: Pol Roger vintage wines are usually 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay but WC is a secret blend made in the full-bodied style, which Churchill preferred.
Tasting Champagne Pol Roger with Hubert De Billy
About the author Jayne Powell (AKA Champagne Jayne)
Awarded “Champagne Dame” status by the champagne industry in recognition of her global efforts as a journalist to democratise prestige, but unaffiliated to any champagne producers or their agents, Jayne is a well known independent champagne advocate, and regular commentator on mainstream TV, in print and online. She holds a BA honours degree with distinction in French language, the globally recognised WSET Intermediate and Advanced Certificates in wines and spirits and has studied champagne at the Institut International des Vins de Champagne in France.
Jayne’s prestigious international speaking engagements include Time Out Young Chef of the Year Awards – Dubai, World Cookbook Fair – Paris, The Champagne Summit - London, Convention and Incentive Travel Magazine UK Corporate Forum, Australian Business Events Expo and the Sydney and Melbourne International Food and Wine Festivals in Australia.
She is particularly in demand in the business sector by companies looking for an original form of corporate engagement with their customers.