John Hawkesby

John Hawkesby is a wine writer for Canvas Magazine.

Chilled tribute to Sir Winston Churchill

'Great Champagne should be cold, dry and preferably free.' - Sir Winston Churchill. Photo / Supplied
'Great Champagne should be cold, dry and preferably free.' - Sir Winston Churchill. Photo / Supplied

The late Sir Winston Churchill must have known something when he declared, "Great Champagne should be cold, dry and preferably free."

The first release of the Champagne that bears his name, Pol Roger's Sir Winston Churchill, was on June 6, 1984, 40 years after D-Day. Fittingly, it was launched at Churchill's birthplace, Blenheim Palace. "To this day," says Pol Roger's ambassador-at-large, Laurent D'Harcourt, "every year we send bottles to members of his family."

And as if being allowed to name one of your wines after the great statesman isn't enough, the family-owned Champagne house is ever so quietly pleased that their NV Champagne was chosen for the wedding of the future King of England and his bride last year.

Says D'Harcourt, "Eight Champagne houses were invited to submit samples for the April wedding and naturally we were delighted to be chosen. We had strict instructions not to mention this before the wedding."

As for helping to boost sales, "it helped put Pol Roger top-of-mind and refreshed the ideas people had about us ... currently we are selling what we are producing".

After the wedding, when news came out about which Champagne the glamour couple were toasted with, sales in Japan went crazy.

"Japanese couples wanted to get married with Pol Roger, no doubt because of the Royals," says D'Harcourt.

But Pol Roger is not resting on that fame and reputation. "These days we only use the first and best pressing for all our wines ... we are striving to be more precise."

And high prices for French Champagne are likely to continue, he adds. "A kilo of grapes in Champagne is very expensive, as is the price of land - one hectare is now more than a million euro."

Despite the high price tag, the world still hankers after French Champagne. After World War II 30 million bottles were produced - last year it was 330 million.

Someone other than royalty and statesmen must be buying it.

RECOMMENDED

Pol Roger Brut Reserve NV, $89
Entry level, this is one-third pinot noir, one-third chardonnay and one-third pinot meunier, thereby covering the traditional Champagne varietals. It is delicate and gentle, with hints of fresh apple, cut flowers and spicy vanilla.

Pol Roger Blanc De Blancs 2000 Grand Cru, $140
100 per cent chardonnay, this is known affectionately by Pol Roger as "our liquid diamond". It has a lovely dry finish with flavours of melon, fresh fruit and a flinty mineral freshness.

- NZ Herald

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