Fizzy, Bubbly or however you may call it, Champagne has always been a sign of celebration and joy. To share some joy, Pol Roger, a well known and celebrated champagne house, conducted a guided tasting of their collection in Delhi at the Orient Express, Taj Palace Hotel, New Delh on their first visit to India since independence. The session was conducted by Mr. Sanjay Menon, director of Sonary’s, and orchestrated by Mr. Laurent D’Harcourt, Director Export of Pol Roger. The afternoon was charmed with a well constructed talk by Mr. Harcourt and six styles of champagnes being tasted.
Pol Roger was established in 1849 and today is one of the few family owned houses in the region now being managed by its 5th generation. Today it owns 87 hectare of land in Vallee d’Epernay and Cotes de Blancs and produces 1.5 million bottles per annum, contributing approximately 55% of the total production of the region. The house does its own vinification with grapes coming from 21 villages. The produce is collected from 17 Grand Cus and 75 Premier Cru vineyards. All the wines are a result of juice collected at the first pressing only, hence, unreachable quality and elegance. Of course, the grapes are Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier ad Chardonnay
Tom Stevenson rates Pol Roger as the second greatest Champagne producer of all times. Magan rates Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill as one of his top scorers. There is a history attached to this wine that explains its christened name. Sir Churchill became an admirer of Pol Roger wines from his first few sips of the 1895 vintage and remained loyal thereon. According to him, this wine remained justified at every war’s defeat or victory. He developed a close knit with the Roger family and became their wine’s brand ambassador in UK. In 1965 Churchill died. To pay homage to him, black borders were added to every white-foil labelled wines sold in UK. On the tenth death anniversary, Pol Roger decided to launch a wine under his name. The first vintage of Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill was launched in 1984. This wine is blended keeping in mind the style Sir Churchill appreciated. The wine is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with grapes coming from Grand Cru grapes only. The cuvee is secretly guarded till date and is not revealed even to the royal families.
Here are the tasting notes we compiled at the tasting:
POL ROGER ‘PURE’ BRUT NATURE NON VINTAGE – PINOT NOIR + PINOT MEUNIER + CHARDONNAY: Also known as the connoisseurs’ wine due to its complexity and finesse. As against others, no sugar is added to finish this wine. A clean deep straw colour with a complex yet lively nose showing hints of spices, yeast oak, lemon, white stoned fruits, tobacco, herbaceous and bready notes. On the palate, it is a young one with high flavour intensity. It shown notes of oak, leather and cloves with high acidity, sharp and clean finish and commendable balance. This wine definitely needs food and is a means very serious business. Seafood and oysters is a highly recommended pairing. My favorite wine of the afternoon.
POL ROGER BRUT RESERVE NON VINTAGE – EQUAL BLEND OF PINOT NOIR + PINOT MEUNIER + CHARDONNAY: This wine is a result of blending of 30 different base wines coming from different regions and grape varieties. It is also the flagship label of Pol Roger, hence known to all. A clean light straw colour creamy looking wine with and elegant fruity nose showing notes of citrus, yeast and water cracker crust. Sharp mouth-feel with dark yeast, oak, vegetative crispness and fruity balance. A medium priced wine that can be paired with a grilled vegetable platter. A nice sipping wine
POL ROGER BRUT BLANC DE BLANCS 1999 – 100% CHARDONNAY: Blanc de blanc simply translates a white wine made from white grape varieties thus making the wine a tad sharp and crunchy. Light lemon coloured wine showing slowly rising tiny bubbles. On nosing the wine, it displays notes of grass, leafy vegetables and very fruity notes with a creamy and round appeal. Over all a light bodied bubbly with capsicum, prunes, fruity and floral notes, high acidity, bit dosage and a great balance. A good food wine that can be paired well with fluffy and crusted/layered food especially mushroom quiche chicken tarts.
POL ROGER BRUT VINTAGE 2000 – 60% PINOT NOIR + 40% CHARDONNAY: A beautiful carbon/chrome label is hard to resist. Dark lemon colour wine showing a complex nose with notes of fruits, white ciabatta bread, yeast and citrus. It is dry on the palate with crusty, yeasty and a highly creamy mouth feel with a citrusy, crunchy, nutty and stoned fruit on the finish and a clean after-taste. Best part about the wine is its approachability, hence, open to food and wine pairing experiments. As a guideline, champagne with higher red grape variety component are more soft and round!!
POL ROGER EXTRA CUVEE DE RESERVE ROSE 2000– 50% PINOT NOIR + 35% CHARDONNAY + 15% STILL PINOT NOIR: Its identity is its romantic pink colour that allures you to return to the wine. A soft smoother wine with light candy, crispy, rose petals notes on the nose. An approachable wine with a sweet edge, berry dominant palate, sharp and creamy finish. The wine can be enjoyed with food of low flavour intensity and less sweet desserts.
POL ROGER CUVEE SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL 1999 – PINOT NOIR + CHARDONNAY: Clean light golden colour wine with tiny slow bubbles. Elegant nose rich in yeast with a creamy mouth-feel and bread crust notes. Fruit forward wine with a few vegetative layers, notes of oak, fig, prunes, apricots and raisins, yet, surprising dry. Crisp high acidity with discerning balance and a highly priced tag. Overall, a great sipping a food-worthy wine that leaves the gums tad sweet.
Every year only a limited amount of Pol Roger bottles are dedicated to our local market. Of course, with extended taxes and restricted supplies, the prices are bound to be high. However, with a wine house of such high calibre and great regard every penny (Rupee in our case) spent is worth it. We raise our toasts to the Pol Roger family and the visionary man, Sir Churchill, for adding a gem to our tasting lists.