Champagne Pol Roger

Our followers know very well of my fascination about “bubbles” and the charm and versatility that good champagne can bring to a moment!

I could name a series of houses and wines I flirt with once in a while, but Pol Roger is my safe haven, for its richness and complexity brilliantly combined with freshness and elegance.

So, when we decided to visit the region of Champagne, there was always a name wandering in my mind, a visit to Pol Roger! Problem? Pol Roger is still one of the few houses not caring about visits or marketing investments, so a visit could only happen by invitation. For sure an obstacle, but who has friends is never alone, and we got a visit scheduled for a long day in this unforgettable house.

Pol Roger started like many other wine companies, a small company trading and producing wines for great houses like Moët & Chandon or Perrier Jouët, until its founder – Pol Roger – decided to establish in Épernay, buy his first vineyards and start bottling his own wine.

Pol Roger was always known as the most British of the Champagne houses, on one hand for being one of the first houses betting on that market and working the Brut profile wines, a favourite in England, and on the other for the longlasting relationship established with Sir Winston Churchill, the famous British prime minister who admitted to prefer Champagne above all other beverages, and Pol Roger above all other brands.

‘I could not live without Champagne. In victory I deserve it. In defeat I need it.’
Winston Churchill

The friendship of Churchill and Odette Pol-Roger became effectively the great commercial and institutional mark of the company, from the homage to Churchill after his passing, with all the bottles exported to the UK having a black up until the ’90s, to launching their most exclusive wine in 1984, the Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill, only produced in years of the highest quality and which blend remains a family secret, always with the idea that each edition of this wine would very much please the British prime minister.

The property
It’s right in the middle of the Avenue de Champagne at Épernay that all the action of Pol Roger takes place, from the beautiful mansion of English influence (of course!), to the warehouses, and the more than 7,5 km of tunnels that extend along the famous avenue and where the millions of bottles rest in their different phases of production.

Guiding us was the always excellent and enlightening Pierre-Samuel Reyne  (in charge of the company’s exports), from the notes of the first orders in the name of Winston Churchill in 1908, to the family photos, to the recovered bottles from the historic collapse of the cellars that almost took the company to bankruptcy, in 1900. Everything breathes history combined with a certain Noblesse oblige!

Getting to know the world of champagne production is not visiting a palace, its elegant offices or its historic documents. Knowing the true essence of the production a visit to its impressive tunnels, where the famous remueurs,  keep doing the manual remuage till today, in every bottle produced by the company – a unique case among the great houses, proving the posture and philosophy of the company.

Pascal, the master Remueur, whose ryhtm no one can keep up with
Pascal, the master Remueur, whose ryhtm no one can keep up with

Pol Roger is a synonym of elegance and subtlely, in their wines, in their relationship with the world and their clients. There’s no relation between the company and the media, no big investments in marketing, or a strong connection to parties or celebrities – with exception for the British Royal Family, that usually celebrates with Pol Roger.

 A style defined in the beginning of the company and which their descendents respect like no other, even with the arrival of Dominique Petit, the current cellar chef, in 1999; with more than 20 years of experience at Krug, the style and absense of wood kept unchanged, with a stronger bet in improving the production, the jubilation of fruit and of course, the harmonious elegance that charecterizes the wines of Pol Roger.

The wines 
Arriving at the historic tasting room, where days before the family had reunited to decide the final touches of another blend, we had a piece of history of the company waiting for us, the wines, and a Portuguese flag, a clear demonstration of respect and of the art of welcoming their guests!

Pol Roger cuvée Brut Réserve
A blend of three equal parts of Pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay of around 30 different crus, combined with 25% of reserve wines. It stages in bottle for four years before going to the market, resulting in one of the most interesting wines of its segment. An attractive nose, with fruit, flowers and a delicate touch of brioche, that indicates immediatly what we are tasting. In the mouth, a combination of jam fruits, honey notes and the long but subtle touch of orange peel to elevate the tasting. A “starter” champagne that never, never, disappoints!

Pol Roger cuvée Pure Extra Brut
A similar blend to the Brut Réserve, but without dosage, an exercise to showcase the style of the house in a wine close to its natural state. To the nose arrives a delicate combination of citrus and yeast, enhanced by a certain complexity of floral aromas. In the mouth the sensation is chilling, with the great acidity being perfectly matched with the structure of the wine. A wine you can’t stop drinking, especially if the company is right – It should be mandatory in every seafood restaurant!

Pol Roger vintage 2012 Blanc de Blancs
The vintage Pol Roger are the wines that gave name to the house, for their personality and longevity. The Blanc de Blancs is, as the name indicates, made exclusively of Chardonnay, in this case just Grands Crus from the Côte des Blancs regionA wine with small production, that staged for 7 years before heading to the market. The nose reveals dried fruits combined with peach, and a citrus side, exotic, very interesting. In the mouth, the wine is direct, showing a complex side allied to a vibrant youth, with citrus flavor and unforgetable acidity. Elegance is for sure the middle name of this wine!

Pol Roger vintage 2009
The Vintage 2009 was created with the usual blend of the house vintage’s, with 60% of Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, and grapes from Grand Cru and Premiers Cru from Montagne de Reims and Côte des Blancs. This wine staged 8 years in the cellars of the Avenue de Champagne before bringing us a very live and persistent bubble, and to the nose, the richness and elegance of white fruit nicely paired with some bakery notes. A delicate and elegant wine in the mouth – yes, the word elegant again – with the mousse, the acidity and structure filling the mouth like few others. A  great wine, and one of the best quality/price ratios in the world of vintage champagne.

Pol Roger Vintage 2009 Rosé
The Vintage 2009 is created in a fairly different process of a classic rosé. To the classic vintage wine basis, they add 15% of red Pinot Noir, before the second fermentation in the bottle. The salmony pink captivates our interest and its red fruits aroma, brioche, and some spices, tell us that yes! we are looking at a great wine. In the mouth, the freshness, structure and complexity of flavors win the title…

Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 2008
The cúvee prestige of Pol Roger,created in homage to its more famous embassador. A wine prepared with only Grand Cru grapes, from wines that already produced during Churchill’s time. An exact blend, despite dominated by the pinot noir, is one of the greatest secrets of the family, that only produces this specific wine when they can find what Churchill loved so much about these wines, body, volume and harmony. The aromas of the wine change with the temperature, starting for revealing white fruit and bakery, then dried fruits and some orange. In the mouth, the balance of hardiness and elegance conquers the taster quite easily, with citrus and bakery being the most dominant flavors. If 2008 was a great year for champagne, the cúvee Winston Churchill is for sure one of its most surprising examples! A great wine!

A perfect birthday for Cíntia, that started with a visit and tasting session at Pol Roger
A perfect birthday for Cíntia, that started with a visit and tasting session at Pol Roger

After an amazing tasting, it was time to a short trip to the center of Épernay for a lunch where the classic French cuisine was queen, and where we put the tasting aside and really enjoyed the vintages of Pol Roger.

Lastly, and before a trip to another small champagne paradise, we visited some of Pol Roger’s vineyeards right in the hillside of Épernay, and found a unique and unforgettable scenery!

Winter is coming!
Winter is coming!

Thank you Pol Roger and thank you Pierre for this perfect day!

Visits are not possible, but the wines are around every great shop in the world!

Photos: Flavors & Senses
Text: João Oliveira
Versão Português
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