A few years ago I attended a Pol Roger Champagne tasting which consisted of their NV (non-vintage) Brut, Vintage 2002, Rosé Vintage 2004 and their top Cuvée (special blend) Sir Winston Churchill 2000. I was struck not only by the quality of the wines on offer but by the attention to detail the company employs in the production of all of its wines.
Vintage champagne is made in a particularly good year. It differs to the NV champagnes that are made annually which are effectively a house blend of the current year’s produce and a percentage from many years of reserve wines stored in their vast cellars.
Vintage champagnes exhibit all of the characteristics of that particular year. They are made from grapes produced in the top Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyard plots and are aged for considerably longer than the NV. In the case of Pol Roger the vintage champagnes are aged for 6-8 years, the Cuvée for more than 10 years, both will continue to develop and improve for many years longer.
They currently hold the Royal Warrant as purveyors of champagne to Queen Elizabeth II. They have on record the first invoice to Sir Winston Churchill dated 1906. He was a very loyal customer and in his lifetime tasted all of their vintages from 1896 to 1947. When he died the company placed a black border around its label in mourning. It was a few years later that the Sir Winston Churchill Cuvée was conceived. The blend is always Pinot Noir dominant to give it power and strength which is apparently how he liked his wines. He drank Champagne to accompany his meals rather than as an aperitif. As Pinot Noir is a red-skinned variety it gives the wine that much of a darker shade, making it seem quite brooding. The wine has over 10 years ageing and as a result has intensely rich honey, toasty and brioche notes. The 2000 vintage was deliciously opulent and nectar-like, so much so that I forgot to use the spittoon. Well it was the last wine in the flight and I had made plenty of notes after all, no doubt Sir Winston would have approved. The size of the bubble or “bead” in sparkling wine is a traditional indicator of quality; this wine had the finest bead I have seen so far together with an incredibly long finish. It is fit for the Queen after all.