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|Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 1996
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Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 1996 ChampagneMore vintages: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004Churchill's relationship with Pol Roger dates back to 1945 when, during a luncheon given by the British ambassador to France after the liberation of Paris, Churchill met the charming and captivating Odette Pol-Roger and began a friendship, indulged by his wife Clementine, which lasted until Sir Winston's death in 1965. Each year on his birthday, Odette would send him a case of vintage champagne. So close was his relationship with the family that, on Churchill's death, Pol Roger put black-bordered labels on the bottles destined for the UK. In 1975, Pol Roger went one step further and named their prestige cuvée after him, making it in the robust, mature style that he liked so much.
Composed exclusively from grapes from Grand Crus Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards which were already under vine during Churchill's lifetime, it is only ever made in the very best vintages. The 1996 vintage shows all the hallmarks of a truly outstanding year. The features of the vintage were a summer full of contrasts but remains famous for its high sugar and acid levels. Just prior to the harvest in the weeks leading up to it, the sun shone and the hot weather from the north-easterly winds. Highly regarded as the best vintage since the famous 1990 vintage, 1996 has all the hallmarks of an incredible vintage which is still evolving.
Second fermentation takes place in the coolest Pol Roger cellars some 33 metres below ground level where it's 9°C, some 2-3°C below the temperature of other Champagne cellars. The cooler cellars slow down the bottle fermentation which ultimately produces a Champagne with finer bubbles for which Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill is renowned.
The Champagne is clear yellow-gold with a fine stream of bubbles, on the nose initial notes of nuts and butter. On the palate the initial freshness leads onto a full-bodied flavour of heady notes of violet and some light citrus fruits, very angular. The finish is superb and very long, with a lasting balance of ripe fruits.
Grape Varieties: Family secret, likely 70-80% Pinot Noir, 20-30% Chardonnay
Dosage: 8 g/L
Ranked 3rd of 10 in our Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill Vertical Champagne Tasting: Read the full write-up from June 2016.
Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 1996 Champagne: same day delivery in London, next day UK mainland & free delivery on 6+ bottles. Pol Roger Overview Vintage Overviews Grand & Premier Crus Explained
“From a Berry Bros private client. Disgorged 2007. Tasted blind. Deeper gold than the 2004 in magnum. Mousse is still fresh but not as lively as the 2004. High acid. 1996 bottle? Very tight even though it has quite a bit of development and richness and some bruised apple on the nose – more oxidative. But has great length and intensity. I like the combination of complexity and crisp acidity. Demonstrative rather than elegant but needs drinking in the next few years. ”
“Pol Roger’s 1996 Winston Churchill is fabulous. One of the most expressive, complete 1996s today, the Winston Churchill is in a great spot. Butter, spice, almond and lemon oil notes meld together effortlessly in the glass. In 1996, the Winston Churchill is a clear overachiever. Best of all, it remains reasonably priced vis-à-vis its peers.”
The Busy Wine Lovers Guide to Pol Roger wine-searcher.com, 7th May 2015
Pol Roger Overview
Champagne Pol Roger has been producing exceptional champagne for over 165 years. To this day the house remains small, family-owned, fiercely independent and unrivalled in its reputation for quality. Indeed, it is this quality which brought about Sir Winston Churchill's lifelong attachment to Pol Roger, who famously insisted "In defeat I need it, in victory I deserve it".
The first sale of wine was in January 1849 when family circumstances forced Pol Roger to set up a business; his father a Notary, had contracted an incurable disease and could no longer carry on his practice. The customer was a merchant in Aÿ the native village of Pol Roger. The firm developed rapidly, from Aÿ it moved to Epernay in 1851. In 1899 the founder died by which point the brand had acquired enviable recognition - it had only taken about thirty years! On 23rd February 1900 disaster struck when part of the cellars and buildings collapsed. Over 500 casks and one and a half million bottles were lost. Maurice and George who had taken over from their father had to work tirelessly to get back on track.
Great Britain is, and always has been, the premier export market for Champagne Pol Roger, a tradition dating back to the 1860's. Even as early as 1855, Pol Roger was making Brut Champagne as he knew that Britain favoured this style of Champagne.
Maison Pol Roger owns 91 hectares of vineyards on prime sites in the Vallée de la Marne, the Montagne de Reims and on the Côte des Blancs and is 55 per cent self-sufficient in its grape requirements. The cellars run for 7km and are on three levels, the deepest known as the 'cave de prise de mousse' at 34m below street level. As the name suggests this is where the wine undergoes its secondary fermentation in bottle. The fact that this deep cellar is at 9°C or less, rather than a normal cellar temperature of 11-12°C, prolongs this fermentation and contributes to the quality and particular style of the wines and their famously fine bubbles.
The Pol Roger range starts with a non-vintage Brut Réserve and the rest of the champagnes are vintage-dated: Brut Vintage, Brut Rosé and Blanc de Blancs as well as the prestige Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.
Sir Winston Churchill's predilection for Pol Roger was sealed in the immediate aftermath of World War Two, when he met and formed a lasting friendship with the captivating Odette Pol-Roger, who encapsulated Churchill's romantic vision of France. For the remainder of his lifetime, Pol Roger was to remain Sir Winston's Champagne of choice, supplied to wherever his engagements demanded from what he described as 'the world's most drinkable address', 44 Avenue de Champagne, Epernay. The friendship between the Churchill and Pol-Roger families endures to this day.
Created in tribute to Pol Roger's most illustrious devotee, the Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill is appropriately composed of only the best grapes, from only the best vineyard sites to which Pol Roger have access and from only the finest vintage years declared by the House. As Sir Winston himself once declared: 'My tastes are simple. I am easily satisfied with the best!' The precise formula is a family secret, but invariably true to the style that Sir Winston himself preferred: robust, full-flavoured and mature; we suspect Pinor Noir is dominant most releases with 30-40 per cent Chardonnay.