Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 1995
This is not the first time this well-known and widely-appreciated cuvée has appeared as my 'weekend wine'; as readers with keen memories will perhaps recall (although your memory would have to be a little more than merely keen, I think) I did cast the spotlight onto the 1993 vintage a few years ago, back in January 2010. Here, however, I have moved onto the 1995 and although the earlier wine was a very strong proposition, this more recent vintage is certainly the more convincing.
The story of Winston Churchill's love of Champagne, in particular Pol Roger (and to be even more particular, the 1928 vintage) has already been well described, not least by me when I wrote about the 1993, and so I won't go over old ground again here. The cuvée created to celebrate his life and his predilection for this Champagne house was first dreamt up in 1975, ten years after Churchill's death. This first vintage was released in 1984, and this practice of only releasing the wine as it heads towards maturity, several years after the release of the straight vintage Pol Roger cuvées, continues today (the most recent release, at the time of writing, is the 2000).
Although exact details are kept firmly under wraps the cuvée is undoubtedly dominated by Pinot Noir (this much is evident merely from tasting the wine) and it is said to be sourced entirely from grand cru vineyards (which seems entirely credible) but only from vineyards that were planted to vines at the time Churchill was busy quaffing the 1928 vintage (which he spent much of his life doing, before stocks were exhausted and he was forced to move onto the 1934). It is, of course, released only in favourable vintages. If I am not mistaken, to date the cuvée has been released in the 1975, 1979, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000 vintages. I would expect to see it pop up in the 2002 and 2004 vintages next, either of which should be supreme. I'm not sure about 2003....I would think it unlikely, but if Krug and Dom Pérignon can do it, who knows?
The vintage in question here is 1995, the final vintage in which the wine still wore its black and gold labelling. In the 1996 vintage the wine underwent a design overall bringing in a more modern marine blue and red colour scheme, colours which were derived from the ceremonial uniform worn by Churchill when he was Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. This honorary title dates back to at least the 12th century, and today it is usually held by members of the Royal Family or retired Prime Ministers; Churchill held the post from 1941 until his death in 1965.
As for the wine made in his honour, as I indicated above the Cuvée Winston Churchill is of tip-top quality in the 1995 vintage, and is a very good example of the Winston Churchill style. It has a relatively deep golden hue in the glass, but it still exhibits a lively and youthful bead. The nose is extraordinarily expressive, and full of evolved Pinot Noir character, first showing off with intense notes of baked apple, although this soon gives way to scents of biscuit, creamy cashew nut, coffee as well as a mint-tinged freshness. The palate is broad, as we might expect from a such a Pinot-dominant cuvée, full of bright and defined mousse, and the rich flavours are cut through by a still vibrant acidity. It is evolved and yet brimming with vigour, and shows a delightful length. It is a remarkable wine. As it is drinking so beautifully right now, I would tuck in if I had a good stock, although I am sure this has decades ahead of it yet, so there is no harm in waiting for a special occasion to open it, especially if you only have a bottle or two tucked away. 18.5/20 (17/2/14)