Sir Winston Churchill’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. A friendship began which, indulged by his wife Clementine, lasted until his death in 1965. Each year on his birthday, Odette would send Churchill a case of vintage champagne. So close was his relationship with the family that upon his death, Pol Roger put black-bordered labels on all of their bottles destined for the UK. In 1975, Pol Roger went one step further and named their prestige cuvée after him, producing it in the robust and mature style that he liked so much. The exact composition of this cuvée is a family secret but it is likely that Pinot Noir dominates 70-80% of the blend with the remainder being Chardonnay. The grapes are all from Grand Cru vineyards which were under vine during Churchill’s lifetime.
At the launch event, held at a Mayfair gallery, Hubert de Billy, fifth member of the Pol Roger family and director, began with describing “2009 is a great vintage, very drinkable, strong, powerful. If 2008 was a vintage for collectors, 2009 is a vintage for drinkers. It’s so that the people who want to age 2008 have something decent to drink”. James Simpson MW, Managing Director of Pol Roger UK spoke fondly of the bond that Sir Winston Churchill had with Pol Roger Champagne. It is estimated Churchill consumed 42,000 bottles (2 bottles/pints / day – Champagne destined for the UK used to be bottled in pint sizes, unlike 750ml today) however, this is habit ‘seemed almost tame’ in comparison to his cigar habit of 250,000.
“The 2009 Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill is a great wine with a lot of complexity. It is perhaps more immediately appealing and powerful than the 2008, but possibly with less longevity. However, the 2009 can age longer than one might think, 20 years and beyond; the biggest problem for 2009 is to follow 2008!”
Hubert de Billy – Director, Champagne Pol Roger
|Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 2009 | 18/20 – Nick Baker
Family Secret | Likely 65-75% Pinot Noir, 25-35% Chardonnay | Lees Ageing: 9 Years | Disgorged: June 2019 | Dosage: 7 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 9 months
It isn’t often I prefer a 2009 over a 2008 but with Churchill I much prefer the 2009 vintage and think they have got it right with their 2009. There is lots of cooked apple, quince and green plum fruit, the texture from lees ageing fills out the mid-palate and the champagne has minerality with freshness coming from a hint of salinity on the finish. This is reminiscent of the 1998 vintage where there was bundles of fruit and good balance of freshness. Drink now to 2020+
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Press Reviews – 2008 vs 2009
|Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 2009 – Jancis Robinson – 17.5/20
Particularly strong apples on the nose – even Golden Delicious, a variety I haven’t tasted in a while. Creamy texture and a slightly sweeter, certainly riper, impression than more typical vintages – certainly much fuller and more welcoming than the 2008. Like a liqueur version of Epernay character! But this wine is no simpleton; it really builds on the palate to a dramatically long finish. Powerful! Very friendly rather than stern and Churchillian. As Hubert de Billy says, the 2008 Churchill is for collectors, the 2009 is for drinkers.
|Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 2008 – Jancis Robinson – 17.5+/20
Real depth to the nose now. And to the palate. Firm and burly with a bit of chew still. Good density but arguably a slight lack of charm when I think of the Dom Pérignon 2008. Tight-knit and not yet fully unfurled.
Arguably the 2008 has dominated the lips of champagne lovers for the past two years but we cannot forget how excellent 2009 is. As above Jancis Robinson has scored them the same 17.5 with the 2008 gaining a + score meaning this should improve further in the long terms, but also championing the 2009’s ability to “build on the palate to a dramatically long finish”.
Future Sir Winston Churchill productions
Hubert de Billy confirms Pol Roger are looking to increase the production of Sir Winston Churchill by acquiring more Premier and Grand Cru vineyards, a difficult task designated to Laurent d’Harcourt. “Our choice of expansion is not governed by turnover, but by quality; we will embrace steady growth but only if we can at least maintain, and at best improve, quality.”