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Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 1993

The story of Pol Roger and Sir Winston Churchill begins in the early 20th century; records from the Churchill Archives (which are held at Churchill College, Cambridge, and which are searchable online) demonstrate that he ordered a supply of the 1895 in 1908. The wines of Pol Roger stayed with him throughout his life, vintage after vintage, and he reputedly held the 1928 in high regard.

His relationship with the wine seems to be personified by his friendship with Odette Pol-Roger, a society lady who had married into the Pol-Roger family. Odette was the great-granddaughter of Sir Richard Wallace, the illegitimate son of the Marquess of Hertford and a noted philanthropist and collector of art. After his death in 1890 his estate, which included paintings, furniture, porcelain, manuscripts, armour and miniatures was left to his widow, Julie-Amélie-Charlotte Castelnau (no relation to the Sauternes estate of the same name that was absorbed into Suduiraut in 1831, as far as I know). It was after her death in 1897 that this extensive art collection was bequeathed to the nation, thus creating the Wallace Collection which is today exhibited in Hertford House in London, the original Wallace residence. Decades later the term Wallace Collection was also colloquially and endearingly applied to Odette Wallace and her two sisters in respect of their joint beauty.

Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill 1993

She and Churchill met at a dinner in the British Embassy in Paris in November 1944, and the two formed a strong cross-generational friendship which lasted for many decades. She was won over by his "his thoughtfulness, his courtesy and his good manners", he no doubt by her charm and beauty. She committed each year to sending Churchill a case of Champagne, sticking exclusively with his favourite vintage - the 1928 - until the supply was exhausted, at which point she moved onto the 1934 vintage, which he continued to drink until his death in 1965 - obviously implying that Churchill liked his Champagne with a certain degree of maturity. He, in return, named a racehorse after her, although it ran under the name of Pol-Roger rather than Odette.

His death was marked initially by placing a black border around the label of the non-vintage Pol Roger, and subsequent to that the creation of a prestige cuvée named after the great man himself. Released in 1984, the wine is fashioned in a style which he was said to enjoy, although exact details of the blend are not released. Nevertheless it seems to be broadly accepted that the blend is heavy on Pinot Noir, and it certainly has the structure and substance to age very well, especially in the greatest vintages. This last epithet should perhaps not be applied to 1993, the vintage in question here; it was not an especially weak vintage, but when placed against its peers it probably ranks behind the other major vintages of the 1980s and 1990s, including 1996, 1995, 1990, and also 1988, 1985 and 1982.

Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill 1993

Onto the wine. The 1993 Cuvée Winston Churchill from Pol Roger has a shimmering, vinous golden hue in the glass, and a powerful stream of very fine bubbles. The nose speaks very much of Pinot, kicking off with a creamy and biscuity seam, touched with rich and meaty overtones, with a slightly honeyed edge. On the palate this rich character sits at the fore to begin with, although it has a rather soft and broad style, perhaps surprisingly so. Despite the vintage I was expecting something rather more taut and focused. Although it is backed up by some soft acidity there is, however, a very fine and precise bead which does something to improve the vigour of the wine. Thankfully, there is rather more structure coming through the midpalate and towards the finish, giving a much better definition in the mouth. With a little time it begins to shows a fabulous composition on the palate, less soft, beautifully balanced, fresh and harmonious, with nutty-biscuity character. Long too. Overall this is a lovely wine with plenty of character, which is true to the Winston Churchill style, and which is eminently drinkable. A really good effort in a less than enthralling vintage for the region. 18+/20 (18/1/10)

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