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Pol Roger

pol roger champagne vineyard

 

bottles in the cellars, pol rogerChampagne Pol Roger was founded in 1849 and is one of the few Grande Marque champagnes to still be owned and run by descendants of the founder. At first Pol Roger bought in all of the grapes to ferment into wine from local growers but such was his early success that he soon began to buy vineyard holdings and today the company owns approximately 87 hectares of vines growing in the Marne Valley, the Montagne de Reims and the Côte des Blancs. The grapes grown in these vineyards provide almost a half of the required total for the house's annual production of 1.5 million bottles, quite small by Grande Marque standards. The remaining grapes are produced by quality conscious growers who have signed up to long term contracts with Pol Roger. Its headquarters have been situated in the town of Epernay since 1851.

 

Champagne Pol Roger - The Quality Factors


pol roger bottles in pupitresChampagne Pol Roger has built an enviable reputation for its quality and is regarded by wine critics as producing one of the top 6 non-vintage Brut champagnes. This bears the title of Brut Réserve NV although it is more commonly known both in the trade and by consumers alike as Pol Roger White Foil. One important factor is the high quality of the grapes used, with an average of 95% on the echelle de crus, a system of ratings which designates grand cru villages at 100% and premier cru villages at between 90% - 99%. This was originally a system designed to fix the price of grapes paid to growers with grand cru villages receiving 100% of the price down to the lowest rated villages getting 80%. This pricing system is not as rigidly adhered to as it once was, it now being recognised that individual vineyards in a village can either over or under-perform their cru designation, but it does still serve as a good guide to a village's potential quality.

The second factor that plays a large role in determining the quality of the finished Pol Roger champagne is the cellars, or caves, themselves. These run for a total length of 7 km. on three different levels the deepest of which, the cave de prise de mousse, is 33 meters below street level. This is where the bottles of champagne undergo their secondary fermentation and the extra depth of Pol Roger's cellars results in an ambient temperature of 9°C in contrast to the more common cellar temperature in Champagne of 11-12°C. These cooler conditions provide a slower fermentation and maturation process and this slower evolution of the wine gives greater finesse and finer bubbles to the finished product.

The third quality factor is closely related to the above and that is the age of the wines upon release. There is a regulated minimum age at which both non-vintage (18 months) and vintage champagne (36 months) can be marketed and Pol Roger exceeds the minimum age by several years. Increased maturity and enhanced complexity of flavour are, together with its great finesse, hallmarks of Champagne Pol Roger.

This perception of high quality has been further enhanced through the years by two unrivalled public relations coups. The first is the well-known devotion of Sir Winston to Pol Roger champagne. He is alleged to have drunk it every morning and when it became known to Madame Odette Pol-Roger that he thought a half-bottle too little and a whole bottle too much for himself she arranged for his supply to be bottled in imperial pints. He justified his love for this champagne by saying: "In victory I deserve it, in defeat I need it."
Following his death in 1965 Pol Roger labels bore a black border and 10 years later he was further honoured when Pol Roger released the Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill. The second source of priceless publicity for Pol Roger is the Royal Warrant granted by the British Monarchy, one of very few awarded to champagne houses, Krug being another to receive this rare accolade.

 

Video: Quick Tour of Pol Roger

 

The Champagnes of Pol Roger

The champagnes produced by Pol Roger are made from the Champagne blend of grapes i.e. Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay varieties. As a general rule of thumb the Pinot Noir is grown on the Montagne de Reims, the Chardonnay in the Côte des Blancs and Pinot Meunier in the Vallée de la Marne. The blended wines are made from two or three varieties expertly blended to produce a consistent house style whereas the vintage Blanc de Blancs is naturally made from Chardonnay alone with the luxury Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill comprising mostly Pinot Noir with a little Chardonnay added. Pol Roger employs four of the remaining ten riddlers (remueurs) in the whole of champagne, these being responsible for turning the bottles daily in their racks (pupitres) to gently move the yeast deposits into the bottle's neck in preparation for its removal in the process of disgorgement and subsequent topping-up or dosage.

 

Pol Roger Brut Réserve Non-Vintage (White Foil)

Pol Roger Brut Réserve Non-Vintage is a blend of 30 different wines from at least two vintages. The challenge is always to produce a champagne that is true to the style of the house. Such wines are the bread and butter of most champagne houses and a successful blend takes much skill, experience and deliberation. This champagne consists of 34% Chardonnay with 33% apiece of Pinots Noir and Meunier and is never released until it is at least three years old, usually older. UK imports undergo a further 6 months ageing after disgorgement prior to going on sale. The nose is floral with green apples and brioche. The palate reveals stone fruits with hints of nuts and honey. Ideal as an aperitif but substantial enough to accompany fish and even some spicing.

 

Pol Roger Brut Vintage

The Brut Vintage champagne from Pol Roger is traditionally produced from 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay grapes which are harvested from as many as twenty premier cru and grand cru vineyards, i.e. those rating 90% and above on the eschelle des crus. These wines are typically more structured and display greater length on the finish while intensifying the floral character and warm brioche notes of the Brut Reserve with a palate of candied fruits. It develops well for six years or more in bottles and up to twice as long in magnums. A perfect match for refined seafood dishes such as lobster and other crustacea.

 

Vintage Blanc de Blancs Pol Roger

Pol Roger's Vintage Blanc de Blancs is one of the house specialities and is produced exclusively with Chardonnay from grand cru vineyards in the villages of Cramant, Le Mesnil, Oger, Avize and Oiry on the Côte des Blancs many of which are owned by the company themselves. It demonstrates varietal characteristics of toasted brioche, almonds and violets on the nose, the latter being present on the palate together with fresh fruits and a hint of aniseed. This is a sublime aperitif champagne which is only ever made in very small quantities. A perfect match for seafood dishes.

 

Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill

The Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill was launched in 1975, ten years after the death of Pol Roger's most famous devotee. It is a Pinot Noir dominated blend, with the judicious addition of a little Chardonnay, made with the degree of body that he himself favoured and has great balance with ripe fruit balanced by the acidity. Made from the fruit of grand cru vineyards, this is a wine that will really repay extended cellaring such is its structure. A champagne rich enough to withstand food with pronounced flavours including a wide range of meat dishes.

In addition to the above champagnes the following are also produced:

  1. Pol Roger Pure Extra Brut: With an identical make-up to the Brut Reserve Non-Vintage this has no added sugar in the dosage. Ideal with all shellfish.
  2. Rich Non-Vintage: A demi-sec champagne suitable for desserts and afternoon tea. Perfect also for a toast with wedding cake. The acidity cuts through the sweetness.
  3. Brut Rosé Vintage: Pink champagne made from 50% Pinot Noir and 34% Chardonnay which is then blended with 16% of still red wine (vin rouge champenois) from the village of Chouilly prior to bottling and its second fermentation. This wine is typically a bright pink with a nose of citrus fruits and strawberries. Minerality is balanced by the tannins from the red wine on the palate making this a good champagne to match with many kinds of food.

 

Video: Tasting Pol Roger with Hubert de Billy

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