“This  has been a miracle for the Champagne region,” Laurent d’Harcourt, President of Pol Roger, told us during our base wine tasting earlier this year. “It was a fantastic year… every single grape was beautiful.”
Pol Roger are typically a little quicker at finalising their blends than other houses, completing the majority of their assemblages in late January and early February. Laurent informed us that they “have made pretty much everything in 2018”, including Brut Vintage, Blanc de Blancs and Sir Winston Churchill.
Laurent added that, if he were to look for weaknesses, then the Pinots were perhaps a bit overripe – particularly from the warmer, south-facing Pinot sites. The Chardonnays were, in his words, “more variable in 2018.”
2018 Vins Clairs
We sampled two base wines of each grape variety. The Chardonnay from Pierry and the Pinot Noir from Ambonnay, which is where Pol Roger started their harvest, were particular standouts. The Pinot Meunier from little-known village Baulne-en-Brie, a big slope with lots of different plots, Laurent described as “the special element of the Brut Reserve”.
The final wine we tasted originated from Épernay, where Pol Roger are based and are the second biggest landowners (behind Moët & Chandon), with 15 hectares of vineyards. “We are very impressed with the still wines the more we taste,” Laurent said.
|CHARDONNAY | Vallée de la Marne | Premier Cru: Pierry
Lovely fresh lemon, very elegant and really good freshness on the palate.
|CHARDONNAY | Côte des Blancs | Grand Cru: Le Mesnil-sur-Oger
Bundles of apples, some tropical hints with great freshness, though no precision.
|PINOT NOIR | Vallée de la Marne | Premier Cru: Cumières
Lots of smokey reduction adding a real charm to the fruit. Loads of peaches, ripe apples and spice. Has a power and delicacy, this is great.
|PINOT NOIR | Montagne de Reims | Grand Cru: Ambonnay
Loads of peaches, ripeness, power and fruit. Lots of strawberry, redcurrant and good length.
|PINOT MEUNIER | Vallée de la Marne | Autre Cru: Baulne-en-Brie
From a 20ha site, this forms a large part of Brut Réserve. Light, with great freshness and lemon notes.
|PINOT MEUNIER | Vallée de la Marne | Épernay
Light and pretty with plum and lemons.
We also sampled a variety of reserve wines from 2016, 2015 and 2014. Laurent explained that when Pol Roger blend vins clairs with reserve wines, they are looking for “backbone in the base year” and to “play with the reserve wines” to add character.
Verzy 2016 and Ambonnay 2016, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir respectively, are from “a good classic year, though not a big year like 2015” and are both considered serious back-up wines for the non-vintage blend. They both have a richness and vibrant acidity with much life left in them and will be kept “a while” before use.
|Chouilly 2016 | Grand Cru | Côte des Blancs
Lots of tropical fruits, smokey with pineapple and great acidity.
|Verzy 2016 | Grand Cru | Montagne de Reims
Spicy and tropical, wow so lovely. Has lots of fruits, like pineapple, mango and really ripe apples. Great freshness.
|Ambonnay 2016 | Grand Cru | Montagne de Reims
Spicy and toasty. This has a lightness and freshness, and so much power of fruit. A spicy, clean finish.
|Mareuil-sur-Aÿ 2015 | Premier Cru | Vallée de la Marne
Bundles of ripe fruits: peaches, pears and plums. Nice length and very refreshing.
|Mailly 2014 | Grand Cru | Montagne de Reims
So much tropical fruit. Spicy and reductive and loads of Gewurtztraminer and Riesling. Loads of freshness.
Blanc de Blancs Vertical Tasting
New Chef de Cave, Damien Cambres, joined us for a comprehensive vertical tasting of Blanc de Blancs vintages, spanning 1986-2012. The first Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs release was the 1959 vintage, launched in the 1960s. Produced only in vintages that produce grapes of outstanding ripeness and wines with sufficient ageing capacity, Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs is made from the very best Grand Cru villages in the Côte des Blancs: Avize, Cramant, Chouilly, Oiry and Oger.
The bottles we tasted were all original disgorgements, having spent between 5 and 10 years ageing on the lees. Laurent commented that original disgorgements of older champagne taste better than late disgorgements, which he believes works best with more reductive styles such as Dom Pérignon and Ruinart.
Laurent noted that as more consumers are storing wines for considerable lengths of time, Pol Roger use the dosage, which has been reduced from 9 g/l in the early 2000s to 7 g/l with the newer releases, to “give a second backbone to the wine for ageing”.
|Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs 2012 | 18/20
100% CH | Lees Ageing: 5 Years | Disgorged: March 2018 | Dosage: 7 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 1 Year
The ripe lemon character is forward with bundles of ripe green apples and lemon with a slight spicy edge. The palate has loads of freshness from the acidity, then the fruits – apple, lemon richness, pineapple – and the lees ageing broaden out the palate. Some chalky character and freshness from the acidity; finishes clean with a hint of salinity. Would expect this to develop like 2002, so drink now to 2038.
|Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs 2009 | 17/20
100% CH | Lees Ageing: 7 Years | Disgorged: May 2017 | Dosage: 7 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 2 Years
Lots of ripe apple and hints of tropical fruits like banana and pineapple. Relatively simple compared to 2012. Soft and round on the palate with lees filling up the mid-palate. Drinking well now to 2025.
|Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs 2008 | 18/20
100% CH | Lees Ageing: 6 Years | Disgorged: November 2015 | Dosage: 7 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 4 Years
Lots of ripe fruit, those expected like lemon and ripe apple, with pear and hints of tropical notes like pineapple and mango. Very fresh and zingy acidity with good weight of fruit and roundness from lees. Finishes very light with a hint of salinity on the finish. Drink now to 2035.
|Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs 2006 | 17/20
100% CH | Lees Ageing: 7 Years | Disgorged: December 2014 | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 5 Years
Plenty of ripe fruits: pear and apple and hints of pineapple with a full texture and mouthfeel. The lees ageing show well in this vintage. Drink now to 2025.
|Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs 2004 | 17.5/20
100% CH | Lees Ageing: 9 Years | Disgorged: July 2014 | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 5 Years
Has a lime-dominant nose and after a few minutes lemon, apple, pear and pineapple come. On the palate, this has some power and density. Drink now to 2025.
|Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs 2002 | 19+/20
100% CH | Lees Ageing: 10 Years | Disgorged: July 2013 | Dosage: 9 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 6 Years
Very generous fruit and has delicacy as well as power: all the expected apple and pear with ripeness and tropical notes coming from the pineapple and mango. On the palate, this has power and precision, with plenty of freshness and power from fruit and lees ageing and lifts up well at the end with chalky hints and salinity. Drink now to 2030+.
|Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs 2000 | 17/20
100% CH | Lees Ageing: 10 Years | Disgorged: October 2011 | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 8 Years
Shows very open with bundles of up-front fruits like apple and pear with pineapple. On the palate you have fruit ripeness and bottle aged characteristics, so going more towards the roasted nuts and dried fruits character. The acidity is lighter but the champagne is still very good and perhaps it is having a peak right now. Drink now to 2025.
|Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs 1999 | 18/20
100% CH | Lees Ageing: 9 Years | Disgorged: September 2009 | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 10 Years
Plenty of ripe apple and pears with power on the palate, this is richly fruited with dried mango and apricots and the lees really fill out the mid-palate, giving great mouthfeel. Drinking very well, now to 2025.
|Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs 1990 | 18.5/20
100% CH | Lees Ageing: 8 Years | Disgorged: May 1999 | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 20 Years
Has a chalky character to start, then a mix of apple and pear and roasted cashew nuts and plenty of dried fruits. It is quite a mouthful; love the lees character and still has great freshness and a wonderfully long finish. Drink now to 2030.
|Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs 1986 | 17.5+/20
100% CH | Lees Ageing: 7 Years | Disgorged: November 1994 | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 25 Years
There is a richness to the fruit, plenty of dried apricot and pineapple and roasted nuts. It is quite mature, but in a good way and has a “laid back richness” to the mouthfeel. Elegant champagne with a long finish. Drink now to 2025.