Sir Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Churchill had a lifelong 'attachment' to Pol Roger champagne and insisted on enjoying the wine at the most dangerous and dark periods of wartime. He famously borrowed a slogan of Napoleon's to describe his passion for this supremely invigorating champagne: "In defeat I need it, in victory I deserve it".
Winston Churchill was born in 1874, the same year from which an outstanding Pol Roger vintage was created - a cuvée which was to provide the foundation for the brand's reputation in England.
Winston became a customer of Pol Roger for the first time when a Cabinet Minister and President of the Board of Trade. He ordered a supply of the 1895 vintage.
By 1914 Pol Roger had become the champagne of people of prominence, and the 1906 vintage sealed this position, being consumed at many royal functions. Winston Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty, retained his loyalty to the brand.
During the Second World War, Churchill maintained a stock of Pol Roger always at hand, even having a case loaded onto flights into foreign war zones, as both defeats and victories 'justified' its consumption. (Allied troops, after the liberation of Epernay and France in 1944 had special stocks of Pol Roger labeled and reserved for their use).
In 1944, Churchill attended an informal luncheon held by the British Ambassador in Paris, Duff Cooper and his wife, where he was introduced to Odette Pol-Roger and a lifelong friendship developed. Odette was one of the renowned 'Wallace Collection' - the three beautiful daughters of French Major General Wallace. The coming together with Odette was described as 'a beautiful December - May relationship, quite harmless and smiled on by Mrs Churchill, who much admired Odette - who personified the best in France'. Every year on Winston's birthday, November 30th, Odette would send a case of Churchill's favourite vintage while stocks lasted - the 1928.
Churchill described Odette's home at 44, Avenue de Champagne, in Epernay as 'the world's most drinkable address' but sadly was unable to complete his promise to tread the grapes with 'my bare feet'. Instead he sent her a signed copy of his memoirs with the inscription 'Mise en bouteille au Château Chartwell'. In 1949, he was still attached to the 1928 vintage, insisting that it be the only champagne served in his lodgings in Strasbourg for the Council of Europe meeting.
In January 1965 Churchill died. As a tribute to their most loyal client, through whose cellar it is estimated more than 500 cases of Pol Roger had passed in the last ten years of his life, a black border was added to the labels of all bottles of 'White Foil' sold in the United Kingdom.
Then in 1984 Pol Roger introduced the Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill, the launch taking place at Blenheim Palace, his birthplace. In 2006 the Cuvée was re-released in a new livery with lively shades of marine blue and red recalling the resplendent uniform worn by Sir Winston during his tenure of the Wardenship of the Cinque Ports.
The champagne reflects the rich, mature, full-bodied style of Pol Roger champagne made before the Second World War, the style that Churchill preferred. Christian Pol-Roger explains: 'The composition is not disclosed - Winston Churchill never asked about the exact composition of our cuvées - but Pinot Noir dominates, blended with Chardonnay. The grapes are from Grand Cru vineyards under vine in Churchill's lifetime'.
In 1990 the black band of mourning on 'White Foil' was lightened to navy blue, recalling Winston Churchill's 'loyalties to the Senior Service' as a former First Lord of the Admiralty.