Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 2015
Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 2015
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, Duff Cooper, some months after the liberation of Paris at which the sumptuous 1928 vintage of Pol Roger was served. 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 from 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 Chateau de Chartwell”. He even named one of his racehorses “Pol Roger” and the filly strode to victory at Kempton Park in 1953, Coronation Year.
The Story of the Vintage
The year began with one of the warmer and wetter winters of the past 10 years, with high instances of sunshine in February and March. This developed into a particularly hot April where budbreak occurred in the middle of the month, and troubling drought-like conditions setting in from mid-May to mid-August. A blessing of two to three weeks’ worth of rain helped plump the grapes out and assuage the till-then stifling vintage. With some worries of rot, the weather eventually turned delightfully clear, sunny and cool in September. The threat of rot contained, harvest took place from 2nd to 18th September with a must potential of 10.4% ABV, and total acidity 7.1 gH2SO4/L. A unique vintage as a result of the warmth and dryness, the resulting Champagne is expressive and full of freshness.
- Cépage (A Closely Guarded Family Secret) 0% 0%
- Dosage (7g/L) 7% 7%
Vinification and Maturation
The must undergoes two débourbages (settlings), one at the press house immediately after pressing and the second, a débourbage à froid, in stainless steel tanks at 6°C over a 24 hour period. A slow cool fermentation with the temperature kept under 18°C takes place in stainless steel, with each variety and each village kept separate until final blending. The wine undergoes a full malolactic fermentation, and is matured for eight years on the lees. Secondary fermentation takes place in bottle at 9°C in the deepest Pol Roger cellars (33 metres below street level) where the wine is kept until it undergoes remuage (riddling) by hand, a rarity in Champagne nowadays. The very fine and persistent mousse for which Pol Roger is renowned owes much to these deep, cool and damp cellars.
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, finesse 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.
The 21st vintage of the Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill is an alluring mid-yellow-gold with a fine stream of bubbles, both characteristics of the length of time this wine has spent in the famously cool Pol Roger cellars. The nose opens with notes of spices and pepper. A good intensity of black fruit follows, showing the fine concentration and density of the wine. The complexity is obvious: a bouquet of dried fruit and hazelnut overlayed with notes of exotic fruits. The aromas are particularly open and impressive.
On the palate, candied fruit notes accompany hints of pastries, brioche and cocoa, broad and mouth-filling. Delightfully structured, the large proportion of Pinot Noir gives the roundness and gravity that one expects from this cuvée. Despite the wine’s relative youth, it is starting to show some smoky weight and good grip with broad, rich and long acidity. Full bodied and generous, the wine culminates with terrific length. Drink now or over the next 20 years.