THE HISTORY OF CHAMPAGNE POL ROGER
Pol Roger was only 18 when, on 2nd January 1849, he made his first sale of wine to a merchant in Aÿ, the village he had grown up in. Family circumstances forced Pol to set up a business because his father, a notary, had contracted an incurable disease and could no longer carry on his practice. The firm developed rapidly and in 1851 it moved from Aÿ to Epernay.
As early as 1855, Pol began to favour production of Brut Champagne, a drier style because he knew that this was the type of Champagne which the English preferred. By 1899, when Pol died of pneumonia, his two sons were ready to take over from him and by this time, the brand had acquired an enviable level of recognition.
1900 - 1918
Maurice and George Roger took over from their father, Pol, having worked alongside him since the age of 18. Early into their tenure, disaster struck; on 23rd February 1900 part of the cellars collapsed, five hundred casks and one and a half million bottles were lost. However, the two brothers’ determination and a show of solidarity from the local community enabled the firm to overcome catastrophe.
In that same year, Maurice and George obtained the right to change their surname to Pol-Roger, in honour of their father. The Pol-Rogers were active and well-respected members of local viticultural organisations. In 1912 Maurice was elected Mayor of Épernay, a position he held until 1918. Maurice was celebrated for his successful leadership during the German occupation of the town in 1914.
1919 - 1945
Maurice and Georges proved a very successful duo; Maurice was the ‘voice’ of the firm, taking care of public relations, sales and marketing and Georges was the ‘nose’, in charge of making the Champagne.
In spite of many obstacles to export, namely prohibition in the United States and the Russian Revolution, Pol Roger continued to expand and grow the brand overseas.
In 1927 Jacques Pol-Roger, Maurice’s son, joined the firm, marking the arrival of a third generation. In 1933, Jacques married Odette, one of General Wallace’s three daughters known as ‘The Wallace Collection’ famed for their beauty. Odette had a style and wit that sparkled as vividly as the champagne she came to represent.
In November 1945, at a luncheon given by the British Ambassador to France, Duff Cooper, Odette Pol-Roger was sat beside 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.
1946 - 1999
Sir Winston Churchill was to become an unwavering Pol Roger customer, declaring the Maison “The world’s most drinkable address”. When Sir Winston died in 1965, on Odette’s instructions all Pol Roger labels destined for the United Kingdom were bordered in black in tribute to Sir Winston’s loyalty and friendship. Nowadays there is an even more fitting tribute in the shape of the Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.
Georges Pol-Roger passed away in 1950, Maurice in 1959. The third and fourth generations of the family took over the running of the company. Jacques and Jean Pol-Roger were joined by Christian de Billy (Maurice Pol-Roger’s grandson) and in 1963, Christian Pol-Roger arrived to strengthen the team. The first member of the fifth generation, Hubert de Billy, son of Christian, joined the business in 1988. In 1997 Patrice Noyelle joined company and was the first non-family member to join the management team.
2000 - 2009
In the new millennium the winery underwent a complete renovation; a significant enlargement of the premises and the installation of new stainless-steel vats was completed in 2004. The brand went from strength to strength with representation around the world.
The management team was composed of Christian Pol-Roger, in charge of exports, Hubert de Billy, presiding over sales in France and marketing and Patrice Noyelle, the Chief Executive.
In July 2013 Laurent d’Harcourt succeeded Patrice Noyelle becoming the President of the Board of Directors. Laurent joined Pol Roger in 2006 as Export Director, to replace Christian Pol-Roger, and was appointed to the Board of Directors in June 2008.
In June 2015, the Supervisory Board appointed Isabelle Gautier, Financial Director, to the Board of Directors. She joined Laurent d’Harcourt, President of the Board of Directors and Hubert de Billy. The Board of Directors is also supported by the skills of Evelyne de Billy, Vineyard Manager, and Damien Cambres, Cellar Master.
On January 1st 2019, Véronique Collard de Billy took over from her father, Christian de Billy, as President of the Supervisory Board, and Christian de Billy became vice-president.