Pol Roger Champagne - Story, price & where to buy Pol Roger Champagne
A fascinating story included in the price of every Pol Roger Champagne bottle
A stroll down the Avenue de Champagne in Épernay is a stroll through humanity’s collective dream. The names glistening on the iron gates and graceful facades read like a who’s who of high culture, a conveyer belt of champagne producers who have provided an air of elegance to the celebratory tones of history. It takes a special something to stand out in a sea of excellence, but ‘a special something’ could well be taken as another way of describing Pol Roger, the champagne of royalty; quite literally, as Pol Roger’s Royal Warrant means it provides Her Majesty Elizabeth II with all the champagne.
The late Winston Churchill’s love affair with alcohol is well-documented, although the extent to which the famous Englishman actually drank borders more on the legendary than the legitimate. Still, his adoration for Pol Roger was no myth, a romance that began when the British Bulldog first drank Pol Roger champagne way back in 1908 and continues to this very day, in the form of Pol Roger’s famous Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill. Introduced in 1984, this unique Pol Roger champagne replaced the Pol Roger Special Reserve at the top of the range, an honour befitting one of modern Britain’s most dominant characters.
Churchill first tasted the magic of Pol Roger champagne in 1908, but it was a chance meeting at an Armistice Day party in Paris that saw the relationship evolve from personal one between a man and Pol Roger champagne to that of a de-facto brand ambassador. The City of Lights was finally free of brutal Nazi occupation, liberated after years of struggle, and Churchill was in town. Sir Winston was the guest of honour at a British Embassy party and was introduced to Odette Pol-Roger, the doyenne of this most famous Pol Roger champagne family, a striking beauty who had spent much of the war risking her life as a courier for the French Resistance. The two got on like the proverbial house on fire, Churchill’s famous oratory skills and love of the family vintage meshing smoothly with Odette’s wit and intangible charisma, beginning a platonic friendship that continued for the rest of Churchill’s life.
And what a life that was. The man tasked with defending Britain during World War II was thought to have drunk 42,000 bottles of Pol Roger in his lifetime, although as mentioned it is wise to take a pinch of salt with such claims. The number of drank bottles of Pol Roger itself isn’t so important as one can accurately say that Sir Winston imbibed more Pol Roger than most. Every birthday was marked by a case of the 1928 Pol Roger vintage, sent by Odette, who remained at the top of the guest list whenever Churchill was in Paris. Churchill actually managed to drink Pol Roger out of its 1928, thus moving on to the 1935 (then the 1945, and finally the 1947). It is said that once he tasted Pol Roger champagne, Churchill never drank any other champagne that wasn’t Pol Roger. Why would he want to drink anything other than Pol Roger champagne?
But even his beloved Pol Roger wasn’t safe from Churchill’s quirks. A busy schedule made convenience a selling point, itself leading to the development of a pint-sized Pol Roger bottle that could sit comfortably in the middle ground between desire and necessity. The Pol Roger half-bottles simply didn’t cover the requirements of a socially active Prime Minister, and Lady Churchill wasn’t about to countenance Winston’s interest in moving up to frequent full Pol Roger bottles. The Pol Roger pint-sized bottle became a happy compromise. The presence of Pol Roger and Sir Winston Churchill in each other’s lives also spread beyond visibility and pleasure; Churchill went on to name his champion racehorse Pol Roger after his beloved Pol Roger champagne.
Pol Roger is a major player in the champagne world. The Pol Roger cuvée Sir Winston Churchill sits at the top of the table, but this is a feast attended by a bevvy of fantastic drinks, ticking the ‘something for everybody’ box that is the hallmark of any self-respecting international brand. This is by no means a comprehensive list - no list should ever be comprehensive - but it is a glimpse into some of Pol Roger’s finest.
The definitive in-house Pol Roger, the non-vintage Pol Roger Brut Reserve has been a flag-bearer for the Pol Roger family since that flag was first flown. This is classic Pol Roger champagne, equal parts Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, providing body, lightness and freshness in spades. The nose of Pol Roger gives a hint of white flowers that juxtaposes deliciously with the initial nuttiness on the palate, giving way to suggestions of honey and stone fruits as time goes by. The Pol Roger Brut Reserve is good to go from purchase, but those willing to let it sit for a while will reap the rewards. As far as champagnes under €50 go, it doesn’t get much better than the Pol Roger Brut Reserve Non-Vintage.
Making Pol Roger vintage champagne is risky business. Sure, many household names are happy to throw the term out there with gay abandon, but not Pol Roger; credibility is vital in these parts. The 2012 Pol Roger season threw up the perfect conditions for a vintage (not without hurdles, of course, all expertly negotiated) and this limited quantity Pol Roger champagne is completely worthy of its lofty title. Balance is everything when it comes to true Pol Roger vintage, and no stone was left unturned in this Pol Roger production process. Expect the price to be anywhere between €60 and €75 for this Pol Roger.
The Pol Roger champagne carousel never stops turning and Pol Roger isn’t about to get left behind. The Pol Roger Pure Extra Brut is the latest addition to the production line, dense golden champagne full of life and the confidence of relative youth. A clean taste of Pol Roger gives way to an impressive length, as cloves and rose combine with spectacular results. A bottle of this Pol Roger fresh fancy will set you back for the price around €55, on average.
It took a long while for the Pol Roger family to come round to the idea of a chardonnay. Old Maurice famously referred to it as la flotte (water), and it wasn’t until the post-World War II era that Pol Roger started taking this most delicate of beverages seriously. It was a case of good things coming to those who wait, and the Blanc de Blancs (‘white from white’) is an honest grasp for that dream Pol Roger champagne, hints of butterscotch bleeding out of the shimmering bubbles before presenting apricot, peaches and more. The axiom ‘traditional yet modern’ is arguably the most flogged of all gastronomy’s dead horses, but it sums up the heart and soul of this prized creation. The use of the word ‘prized’ is no coincidence, as expecting to pay the price of any less than €80 for a bottle of Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs is misguided at best.
What do you expect from a fine rosé? A thrilling combination of flavours on the palate, of course, but you should also demand a clear structure to reveal itself upon making its acquaintance with those most eager buds. Pol Roger’s Rosé steps up to the plate and then some, its rich basket of pale raspberry and fine copper providing a depth and luxury that Pol Roger is famous for. The Pol Roger rosé shines brightest alongside fish dishes and fruit desserts (not at the same time, obviously), and the price of this Pol Roger stops around €75 a bottle.
Which brings us back to where we began, with the fabled relationship between Pol Roger and Sir Winston Churchill. This is the top of the Pol Roger table, the best of the best from a family brand that has built its reputation on the word ‘best’. The wine was created as a tribute to Pol Roger’s most famous (and biggest) fan, a beverage intricately tailored to the characteristics of the man himself, exhibiting power and confidence through the nose and on the palate, a captivating dance that unfolds over time. A slow fermentation process produces the finest bubbles, the best wines put to the test in a cepage that remains a closely-guarded family secret. Available by the bottle beginning at the price of €215, the cuvée Sir Winston Churchill is best enjoyed in magnum form, although expect to part way with the better part of €500 for the privilege, and believe us, it is a privilege.
You can buy Pol Roger from WeVino of course! There is a range of Pol Roger bottles available from our online shop, ranging from the relatively inexpensive Pol Roger non-vintages all the way up to that most magnificent Pol Roger of wines the cuvée Sir Winston Churchill. Sales aren’t infrequent, meaning there really is no excuse not to pick up some seriously good Pol Roger to take pride of place in your cellar.
As you can see, the price of a bottle of Pol Roger covers quite a lot of ground, but such variables are always to be expected in the modern world. Gone are the days of brands focusing solely on high or low end products, although you’d be hard-pushed to use the latter to describe anything put out by Pol Roger. Let’s go with less to more expensive, that seems more respectful. As outlined above, Pol Roger bottles in the €50 region can be found, while those looking to embrace their inner-Winston Churchill and crack open a bottle of Pol Roger’s finest will be spending well into three figures.
Sir Winston Churchill will be far from your mind as you settle into the magenta skies of early morning Épernay. France’s famous champagne port is a bustling maze of narrow streets and vintage exuberance, but it is in the verdant vineyards that the commune comes alive. It was in these dignified surroundings that Pol Roger was born, both the man and the champagne. The eponymous Pol Roger creator of the beloved beverage was just 18 years old when he made his first sale of wine to a merchant in nearby Aÿ, a transaction that took place in 1849. Pol Roger’s initial hope of following his father into the business of law was curtailed by a serious illness that enveloped his father, leaving the young man with the prospect of having to establish a business of his own. Wine was the answer.
That first sale for Pol Roger came in 1849, but by 1853 things were moving in earnest. From the very beginning, Pol Roger tried to tailor his creations to the English market, focusing on drier champagnes and showcasing a shrew business mind in the process. Pol passed away from pneumonia in 1899, but his two sons were ready to take Pol Roger Champagne to the next level.
Things couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start. Less than a year into their tenure the Pol Roger cellars collapsed, destroying more than half a million Pol Roger bottles in the process. Such a tragedy would destroy a less determined outfit but the Pol Roger family was not to be stopped, and a mixture of courage and community love helped the legacy of Pol Roger to continue. ‘Pol Roger’ became the official name of the champagne in 1900 when the Pol Roger boys legally changed their surname to ‘Pol-Roger’, and both found themselves sewn into the intricate fabric of Épernay society.
The 20th century was one of the most tumultuous in human history, but it was going to take more than the various events of the globe to stop the momentum of Pol-Roger. International celebrity was forthcoming, a growing reputation that managed to survive prohibition, the Russian Revolution, two World Wars and all the rest, as the creation of an 18-year-old prodigy became a name synonymous with everything that is great about Pol Roger champagne; the pomp and circumstance, the elegance, the luxury and above all the taste.
These traditions continue well into the 21st century. Pol Roger Champagne has largely managed to hold back from throwing itself into the world of tourism, focusing instead on producing quality champagnes that do all the talking. As such, a visit to what Churchill deemed the ‘most drinkable address in the world’ is only possible for those on the inside, unless you happen to be an iconic 20th century British Prime Minister. Churchill himself never made the journey to Épernay, although he did more than most to make this famous Pol Roger drink an even more famous institution.
Humanity’s relationship with champagne is a curious one, a love affair built on the perception of glitz and glamour that often belies the inherent down to earth (literally) nature of its production. Churchill famously called it the ‘wine of civilisation and the oil of government’. When it came to Pol Roger, he knew better than most.