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Pol Roger and the Churchill factor

Fifty years on from his death Sir Winston Churchill is still Pol Roger’s greatest brand ambassador

Pol Roger took a discreet approach to the fiftieth anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral last week, with just a few private family events. This year the Champagne house sponsored the launch of Boris Johnson’s ‘The Churchill Factor’, currently topping the non-fiction charts, and the ‘Churchill Scientists’ exhibition at London’s Science museum.

While Churchill indulged in other brands like Johnnie Walker and Romeo y Julieta cigars, he had a special fondness for Pol Roger. “The first invoice we have from him is 1908, and he drank it up until his death in 1965,” said James Simpson MW, Pol Roger UK’s MD, who described him as: “A proper Edwardian gent who didn’t like red or white wine. He drank Champagne by the pint in a silver tankard, two at lunch and one for dinner.”

Britain’s wartime leader met Odettte Pol Roger at a lunch in Paris after the city’s liberation in 1944, and the two clearly hit it off. She was soon sending him a case every year while he named his favourite racehorse Pol Roger. At Churchill’s funeral she was one of the few civilians invited, and Pol Roger NV was then draped in a black border for almost forty years. “Yes, we didn’t come out of mourning until 2003,” said Simpson.

Since 1984 there has been the vintage Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill, now the Prestige Cuvée, which is released in tiny quantities. With inevitable exposure through all the Churchill coverage, UK sales are expected to be buoyant this year. “We’ve already had a jolly good January,” said Simpson. However with an allocation of around 25,000 cases a year, there is not much room for growth, though it will undoubtedly strengthen the brand. “If people get that we’re still family-made and have the Churchill connection,” said Simpson, “then we’re three steps ahead of most Champagne houses.”

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