The relationship between Champagne Pol Roger and Sir Winston Churchill dates back to a providential meeting at a luncheon given by the British Ambassador to France some months after the liberation of Paris at which was served the sumptuous 1928 vintage of Pol Roger. Attending the lunch was the beautiful Odette Pol-Roger as well as the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, with whom she struck up an instant rapport. A friendship was born which continued until Churchill’s death, creating links between the Pol-Roger and Churchill families which are still as strong to this day.
The pressures of his post sadly prevented Churchill ever paying a visit to 44 Avenue de Champagne, the home of Champagne Pol Roger, but he nonetheless proclaimed it “the most drinkable address in the world”. As recompense for breaking his promise to visit he sent Odette a copy of his Memoirs inscribed “Cuvée de Réserve, mise en bouteille au Château de Chartwell”. He even named one of his racehorses “Pol Roger” and the lly strode to victory at Kempton Park in 1953, Coronation Year.
THE “CUVÉE SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL”
Champagne Pol Roger created their Prestige Cuvée in homage to Sir Winston Churchill mindful of the qualities that he sought in his champagne: robustness, a full-bodied character and relative maturity. The exact blend is a closely guarded family secret but it is undeniable that the composition would meet with the approval of the man to whom it is dedicated: “My tastes are simple, I am easily satisfied with the best”. Pinot Noir predominates, providing structure, breadth and robustness whilst Chardonnay contributes elegance, nesse and subtlety. Composed exclusively of grapes sourced from Grand Cru Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards which were already under vine during Churchill’s lifetime, “Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill” is only made in the very best vintages and is always released later than the other vintage dated Champagnes from Pol Roger, marking Churchill’s appreciation for older wines.
PREVIOUS VINTAGES OF THE CUVÉE
The first “Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill” was from the 1975 vintage and was released, in magnum only, in 1984, with the launch taking place at Blenheim Palace. There followed 1979, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 and now 2008. The latest vintage, 2008, is produced in very small quantities, it is available in 75cl bottle and 1.5L magnum.
THE STORY OF THE VINTAGE
Following some frost in December, the beginning of 2008 was marked by mild and humid weather conditions. However by contrast, March and April were cool and rainy, even hit by spells of snow and frost. Good temperatures in May rapidly boosted growth. The summer months were characterised by extremely variable weather, with storms in July, cool weather and limited sunny periods in August. The «Véraison» (changing of colour and onset of ripening) started in early August and by this point, the conditions in the vineyard were outstanding. September brought excellent weather, and the picking started on 15th September in sunny conditions. The grapes were healthy, and the sugar/acidity balance, perfect.
The opulent golden colour of the wine is enlivened by a fine, harmonious stream of bubbles.
At first, the rich nose boasts notes of white flowers and freshly baked brioche aromas. As the wine warms in the glass, it exudes scents of dried fruits and toasted almonds and hazelnuts, combining with a hint of orange zest.
On the palate, the wine is immediately powerful and yet exquisitely well-balanced; refreshing flavours of citrus fruit, notably grapefruit, are coupled with creamy notes of pastry.
This wine combines the fullness of the much-celebrated 2008 vintage with the unparalleled and much-loved style of the Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill. A long, lingering finish indicates that this wine has fantastic ageing potential.
The weight, balance and mineral freshness means that this champagne could be served with Parmigano Reggiano matured for 18 months, a stuffed capon “facon demi-deuil” or sweetbreads cooked with morels.
Roger Voss, Wine Enthusiast 2018 : 100 / 100 Cellar Selection
One of the great Champagnes both for its richness and its longevity, this latest incarnation is superb. The wine’s richness is linked to the ripe fruit and the dominance of Pinot Noir in the blend. It also shines in the perfect balance between the texture, the minerality and the integration of the fruit. It can be enjoyed now, but it will be better from 2020 and then for many years to come.
Stephan Reinhardt, Wine Advocate 2018 : 96 / 100
Sourced in grand cru vineyards and blending Pinot Noir with Chardonnay, Pol Roger’s 2008 Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill displays an intense straw-yellow/white-golden color and opens with a beautifully deep, fresh, concentrated and beautifully aromatic bouquet of perfectly ripe tropical fruits, refreshing lemons, very fine vanilla and brioche aromas. The attack on the palate is fresh and finessed, and in the following seconds, the 2008 reveals great airiness, precision, purity and intensity with a firm, persistent structure in the long, refreshing, perfectly balanced and mouthwateringly salty finish. The 2008 Winston Churchill is a highly complex yet focused and vitalizing prestige cuvée of great, great finesse, chalky expression and exciting elegance. It already drinks great but also indicates immense aging potential. It’s most likely one of the finest of this century and one of the greatest Churchills of modern times. Tasted from lot L82002894D in July 2018. Disgorgement date unknown. The wine will be released in the second half of this year.
While the 2009 Vintage Brut Rosé is already in the markets, the fabulous 2008 Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill will be released only later this year, most likely when the abnormal summer heat over Europe has cooled down again and the 2018 harvest has been brought in (probably earlier than ever before). The purity, finesse and elegance in combination with tropical but refreshing fruit aromas makes the 2008 Churchill not just a fascinating prestige cuvée but one of finest of modern times and a safe investment for lovers of really great Champagnes. 96 points. Drink 2018-2050.