What makes this wine a legend...?
Pol Roger, Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 2000, Champagne, France
Bottles produced N/A
Blend predominantly Pinot Noir
Yield (hl/ha) N/A
Alcohol 12.5% Release price N/A
Price today £190
A legend because…
First made in 1975, this cuvée has become one of Champagne’s best and most admired wines. As a vintage, it is only made in top years and aged for about nine years before release. The warm conditions in 2000 particularly suited the rich, weighty style of the cuvée.
Pol Roger was founded in 1849, in Epernay. For decades it was Winston Churchill’s favourite Champagne (his first order was in 1908), but the personal connection can be traced back to the liberation of Paris in 1944, when a lunch organised by Lady Diana Cooper brought Odette Pol-Roger and Churchill together. The two got along famously, establishing a long-lived friendship. When Churchill died in 1965, Pol-Roger ordered all Pol Roger labels destined for the UK to be bordered in black in tribute to him, and 10 years later the house released a more lasting tribute: Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill. It was intended to reflect his personality – robust, muscular and full-bodied – and thus dominated by Pinot Noir.
As in other parts of France, 2000 was a warm and humid year, but complicated here by outbreaks of mildew and botrytis. The weather was fine during harvest, though some sorting was required. The year produced Champagnes of great opulence, yet many have evolved quite rapidly. It was a vintage that favoured Chardonnay over the Pinots, but this hasn’t impacted on the quality of this wine.
Sir Winston Churchill is sourced from various vineyards, in this case solely from grand cru sites. Pinot Noir is always the dominant variety, but Pol Roger doesn’t disclose the blend. The house owns 92 hectares of vineyards, mostly around Epernay. About half of its grapes are purchased from growers.
This was the second Churchill cuvée made by cellarmaster Dominique Petit. Although one would be forgiven for thinking the wine was barrel-fermented to develop its rich style, this is not in fact the case. The young wine goes through malolactic fermentation. The cuvée spends at least eight years in the cellars, which are particularly cold, retarding the maturation process and ensuring tiny bubbles after the cork is pulled. Riddling is manual, now a rarity in Champagne.
In 2015 Stephen Brook reported: ‘The apple-compote nose is reserved, but has purity of fruit and finesse. The attack is lean, tight and racy, very youthful, with a wonderful tension and dynamism. It is in its prime but should keep well thanks to its racy acidity.’ Richard Juhlin noted its ‘nice smoky complexity.’