Pol Roger celebrates ’02 Churchill launch19th June, 2014 by Gabriel Stone
Pol Roger officially launched the 2002 vintage of Sir Winston Churchill yesterday, following record sales of this prestige cuvée in the UK market last year.
The event in Epernay marked the 14th release of the Champagne house’s top expression, which was created in honour of the famous British statesman who was a friend of the Pol Roger family and well-known fan of its product, even naming one of his racehorses after the brand.
The cuvée’s inaugural 1975 vintage, created 10 years after Churchill’s death, was launched exclusively in magnums in 1984 at his ancestral home Blenheim Palace to coincide with the 40th anniversary of D-Day.
Every previous vintage release of Sir Winston Churchill has been given the blessing of its namesake’s daughter Lady Mary Soames. However, following her death last month at the age of 91, Churchill’s great-grandson Randolph Churchill attended this latest launch, declaring “We relish our relationship with Pol Roger.”
Explaining that the expression was originally modelled on acclaimed vintages such as 1928 or 1934, Pol Roger’s managing director Laurent d’Harcourt summed up Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill as representing “the best of the best”, using only the first pressing of grand cru grapes.
In contrast to the Pol Roger Brut Reserve NV, which is released after around three years and made from a blend of around 40% Chardonnay with the remainder Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill is matured on its lees for about a decade prior to release and contains a considerably higher proportion of Pinot Noir.
“The recipe is a closely guarded family secret but the vintages that Churchill drank were around 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay,” hinted Pol Roger UK sales director James Simpson MW.
Indeed, he noted, “Chardonnay only really came in with global warming in the ‘50s and ‘60s,” adding that the variety is “great for prettiness, but Pinot Noir is what gives the wine its ageability.”
Building on this theme, Hubert de Billy of Pol Roger explained: “The idea behind Churchill is a full bodied wine with some bubbles.”
Pol Roger will release Sir Winston Churchill 2002 in the UK on Monday, although a second allocation is likely to be made available next year. Nevertheless, with Simpson confirming that the total allocation is “tiny, 100s of dozens”, the Pol Roger team anticipates strong demand for this prestige cuvée from a vintage that has been highly acclaimed across Champagne.
Speaking to the drinks business earlier this year, d’Harcourt confirmed: “2013 was a very good year for Winston Churchill, and our biggest ever in the UK.”