Peter is a Scottish crazy for champagne whose cellar includes only champagnes. He pushes his passion to the point of visiting all the winemakers of Champagne. He organizes legendary tastings. It was with him that in London I tasted all the vintages of Pol Roger in the Cuvée Winston Churchill, all presented in magnums except one, 1988, in Jeroboam, which was the winner.
Tonight we are invited to the Hotel l’Assiette Champenoise owned by Arnaud Lallement a three stars chef, for a tasting of 38 different champagnes of Pol Roger, ranging from the brut non-vintage on a 2011 base until 1892.
We are twelve, gathered at 5 pm in a lounge to toast on the Champagne Pol Roger Brut magnum non-vintage. There is one Finnish, one Latvian, two German, one of whom lives in London, one English, two Dutch, one Japanese (my friend Tomo), Peter the Scottish organizer, Hubert de Billy owner with his family, Laurent d’Harcourt the president of Pol Roger and I.
We chatted while tasting this recent champagne a little dosed for my taste but very pleasant to drink and we quickly join the tasting room that was reserved for us. Peter organized eight series of champagnes without chronological order. We will travel back in time in both directions. Matthieu, the excellent sommelier assisted by several people will manage the glasses and retrieve frequently some as the restaurant does not have 38 times 12 glasses to offer us. Alone French except the Pol Roger leaders, I behaved like an irreducible « Gaulois » by deciding to keep all my glasses because I felt that the photo that one could make of all the glasses of the tasting wines would be of the highest interest. When you taste 38 wines, the notes can only be sibylline.
First series: the Champagne Pol Roger Brut NV on a 2011 basis is the champagne that is selling right now. In very short time the same champagne, based on 2012, will arrive on the market. The nose is very milky, very sweet and I feel it less dosed than the champagne served in magnum. This champagne of very beautiful tension is very nice.
The Pol Roger Brut champagne NV on a base of 2008 has a nose of more beautiful tension. In the mouth the champagne is more sharp. It has a beautiful volume and a long length. It’s a refined champagne that I find very good.
Champagne Pol Roger Brut NV on a base of the early 90s, probably 1992 and 1993, has a color of a gold still clear and an older nose struck by a slight cork, which is almost not sensitive in mouth. As often, no one dares to say. I evoke it in secret with my neighbor Laurent d’Harcourt who confirms my impression. If we set aside the tiny trace, the wine is elegant and fresh.
The Pol Roger Brut Champagne NV on a 50s base may have more pinot noir than the youngest Brut NV. The color is amber. The nose is very mature with a bit of apparent bitterness. In the mouth it is very fresh, light and aerial. It is rather short, with an inaccurate finish. Overall it is not very nice.
The Champagne Pol Roger Brut NV Pint is of a British volume of 58 cl intermediate between the half bottle and the bottle. This volume (pint) was used until 1973. Champagne is therefore probably between the champagne of the 50s and 1973, which is consistent with the gradation of the colors of this series. The nose is very soft. Very pleasant wine in the mouth, milky. It is precise and has a beautiful length.
My ranking of this first series is: 1 – Pint, 2 – base 2008, 3 – base 90s, 4 – base 2011, 5 – base 50s.
Second series: Champagne Pol Roger 2002. The nose is fabulous. The wine is very lively and very racy.
The Champagne Pol Roger 1971 has an already amber color. The nose shows signs of age. The wine is very pure, solar, with some signs of age. It is typically the wine that would shine if it was associated with a dish. He is very handsome.
The Champagne Pol Roger 1947 is presented in two forms. The 1947 Pol Roger Champagne of disgorgement of origin has a very soft nose. The mouth is sweet. It is fantastic. It is a bit short but it has so much charm.
The Pol Roger Champagne 1947 disgorged in 1981 was tagged for the wedding of Charles and Diana but was not used for this event. It is drier because it has not been dosed at the time of the disgorgement. His vivacity is extreme. It is quite sunny and pleasant but I prefer by far the first that enchants me.
The Champagne Pol Roger 1928 has a nose that is not clear. The mouth is of much better presentation. It is a very endearing testimony. This wine astonishes me because of the difference between nose and mouth. The wine is very long. It is extremely exciting.
My classification of this second series is: 1 – 1947 initial disgorgement, 2 – 1928, 3 – 2002, 4 – 1947 disgorged in 1981, 5 – 1971.
Third series: Champagne Pol Roger magnum 1990. The glass wine of Laurent d’Harcourt is corked while that of my glass is not, what Laurent, astonished, attributes to his glass. This champagne has a lot of body. Of beautiful presence it is opulent. It is a glorious champagne, light colored. Peter informs us that a second magnum has been opened, of lower quality than this one.
The Champagne Pol Roger 1964 has a slightly amber color. The nose is a little tired. The mouth is superb, in contrast to the nose. It is a glorious and refined wine. That’s my taste.
The Champagne Pol Roger 1953 is barely more amber than the 1964. The nose is very pure. It is a magnificent wine, very large, sweet and I prefer it to 1964 which is very large too.
The Champagne Pol Roger 1934 has a very clear color for its age. The nose is superb. It is a very great wine.
My ranking for this third series is: 1 – 1953, 2 – 1934, 3 – 1964, 4 – 1990. I am subdued by the extreme performance of the first three. They have spices and pepper and a very dry taste despite the dosage which is superb.
Fourth series: Champagne Pol Roger 1982 has a very clear color. The nose is superb and full of energy. It is a fantastic wine that combines youth and full maturity.
The Champagne Pol Roger 1962 has a lighter color than the 1982. The nose is deep and romantic. On the palate there is a little bead and English sweet and thus the wine is not very balanced. But it is an interesting wine. There is a little too much acidity in the finish and when it widens in the glass, one feels the quince.
The Champagne Pol Roger 1952 has an elegant nose but with a bit of bitterness. The mouth is nice but not a perfect champagne. When it improves, it becomes very beautiful.
Champagne Pol Roger 1904 disgorged in 1921 and recorked in 1992 is corked, putting off the nose, but in the mouth it goes much better. It is very exciting and the sweetness of its dosage is the best of all we have drank. We asked ourselves when the cork nose appeared and it is obviously at the refilling of 1992.
My classification of the fourth series is: 1 – 1952, 2 – 1962, 3 – 1982, 4 – 1904.
Fifth series: Champagne Pol Roger 1995 is light colored. The nose is very expressive. In the mouth it is a very large champagne without age, extremely accomplished.
The Champagne Pol Roger 1985 has a very powerful and very clear nose. It is extremely lively. I love it because it is a very great wine of a great year.
The Champagne Pol Roger 1961 is a little amber but not too much. The nose is unpleasant. The wine is bitter and lacks of balance.
The Champagne Pol Roger 1949 has a nose of incredible softness. Its elegance is rare. While Hubert de Billy points out a small lack of material, I find it fabulous, elegant and romantic.
My classification of the fifth series is: 1 – 1949, 2 – 1985, 3 – 1995, 4 – 1961.
Sixth series: Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs Champagne 1988 is clear with a very clear nose. The champagne is perfect. It is the ideal champagne that mixes youth and maturity.
The Champagne Pol Roger Vintage 1988 is excellent too. It is less aerial and I prefer Blanc de Blancs.
The Champagne Pol Roger rosé 1988 has a superb nose. It is well-built and of beautiful balance. Hubert de Billy is very surprised to see it as brilliant. It’s a big rosé.
The Champagne Pol Roger P.R. 1988 is 50 – 50% between Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It is very clear, deep nose. It is a very heavy wine but in the good sense of the term as it is permeating.
The Champagne Pol Roger Cuvée Winston Churchill 1988, is the class in the pure state. The wine is at the top, perfect.
My ranking for the sixth series of five 1988 is: 1 – Winston Churchill, 2 – Blanc de Blancs, 3 – rosé, 4 – Vintage, 5 – P.R.
Seventh series: Champagne Pol Roger magnum 1996 has a beautiful, fabulous and penetrating nose. The wine is very powerful with fruits such as gooseberry. Really very powerful.
The Champagne Pol Roger 1959 disgorgement of origin has a rather dark color. The nose is quite tired but it is more realistic than the « young » 1959 that follows.
The Champagne Pol Roger 1959 disgorgement around 2000 has a much lighter color. The wine is very fluid and very young. I prefer the original disgorging which is more in line with what a 1959 must be.
The Champagne Pol Roger 1937 has a tired nose. The wine is very amber. The mouth is completely different, it is beautiful. It is a nice wine that I like very much even if the final is not totally clear. I love him in spite of his faults.
The Champagne Pol Roger 1914 disgorgement of origin plugged in 99 or 2000 is a wine surprisingly clear and it bothers me. The nose is a little stable but discreetly. The wine is nice but not at the level of what 1914 should be, mythical year. It is both sweet and lively.
My classification of the seventh series is: 1 – 1959 original, 2 – 1996, 3 – 1937, 4 – 1959 late disgorgement, 5 – 1914.
Eighth Series: The 2008 Pol Roger Champagne is clear. It is magnificent with incredible width. It will be a star for a century.
The Champagne Pol Roger 1979 is very nice and elegant. I mention caramel and Hubert de Billy says: crème brûlée.
The Champagne Pol Roger 1966 is superb, not very wide but pretty.
The Champagne Pol Roger 1921 disgorgement of origin is magic. It is not perfect but it has the soul of 1921. It is a fantastic wine.
The Champagne Pol Roger 1921 disgorgement January 1992 is very clear, with superb nose, it has incredible vivacity.
The Champagne Pol Roger 1892 has a nose that is not clean but the mouth is sweet. It is a very charming, sweet wine, of which one feels the sugar.
My classification of the eighth series is: 1 – 1921 original, 2 – 1921 late release, 3 – 2008, 4 – 1966, 5 – 1892, 6 – 1979.
As much as one can classify in a series, as much it is impossible for me to classify all the wines because the memory cannot assimilate all these wines by hierarchizing them. It is probable that if we had followed the chronological order in one direction or the other, I could have made global hierarchies but I also appreciate Peter’s choice to vary the periods in each series which kept our senses awakening. I was very marked by three wines of the third series and by the 1921.
I am impressed by the overall quality of all these champagnes. The rejection rate is extremely thin and I am also surprised to see that nose rejects do not mean that the mouth will be. I am personally more favorable to the disgorgements of origin but I admit readily that it is my taste that drives me to seek the soul of wine in its year rather than rejuvenated.
The service temperatures were excellent, accurate, the service of the sommelier team did a very professional job. Hubert de Billy and Laurent d’Harcourt think that this tasting, which had never been made so extensive, may be impossible to redo. We participated in a historic event.
We leave the tasting room so that the staff can prepare our table for dinner during which we will drink the « leftovers » and a few new bottles on a menu specially designed by Arnaud Lallement for us. The party continues!