Jonathan Ray

Wine Club 8 July

You can never have too much Pol Roger

Wine Club 8 July
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As readers well know, we love Pol Roger champagne at The Spectator. We like to think of it as pretty much the house pour. It’s used at all our events and also simply to calm our nerves at the end — or, occasionally, the start or middle — of a testing working day. We can’t seem to get enough of it. No, I mean we really can’t. We’re always running out.

Happily, we had just enough to go round at the latest in our series of Spectator Wine-maker’s Lunches, hosted by the always ebullient James Simpson MW, MD of Pol Roger Portfolio. Readers canny enough to book a ticket were treated to fine fizz, excellent Forman & Field grub and Mr Simpson in effervescent flow. There’s nothing J.S. doesn’t know about Pol, nor indeed about champagne in general, and since the wines showed so well it seemed only fair to offer them at as generous a price as possible to the wider Spectator readership via our good friends over at Private Cellar.

We start, of course, with the Pol Roger Brut Réserve NV (1), popularly known to its many fans as ‘White Foil’ thanks, um, to the distinctive white foil about its neck. It’s made up of one third each of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, blended from 30 or more base wines drawn from several different vineyards, vineyard plots and vintages, and aged for a minimum of four years before disgorgement. UK stocks are then given an extra six months in bottle before their release.

With a palate of nuts, fresh and baked apples, toast and brioche and even distinctive honeysuckle, it’s up there with the very best. £37.99 per bottle down from £41.55.

It’s generally agreed by winemakers, sommeliers, merchants and fizz lovers that the best size for champagne is the magnum. The wine matures just that little bit more slowly and, as James points out, it isn’t outrageous for four people to share as an aperitif and as a partner to a first course. The 2006 Pol Roger Brut (2) is available exclusively in magnum. This was an excellent vintage and, though somewhat overshadowed by the subsequent 2008, it is worth revisiting. It was pressed quickly and it matured slowly, picking up flavours as it aged. James Simpson found a small batch tucked away in the Pol cellars after the initial release and has generously decided to offer them to us here. £132 per magnum down from £140.

Vintage Pol is the champagne that so beguiled Sir Winston Churchill, who notoriously found himself equally beguiled by the charms of Odette Pol-Roger, the striking wife of Jacques Pol-Roger, eldest grandson of Pol Roger himself. And it was such beguilement that spurred him on to drink 500 cases of Pol during the last ten years of his life. That’s one and a half bottles a day, every day. What a great man!

Finally, the hit of our lunch, the Pol Roger Rich NV (3). I’m a sucker for sweet champagne and this so-called demi-sec is as good as it gets. Nobody at our lunch had tried sweet fizz before and I loved the broad smiles that stole across our guests’ chops as they took their first sip and swallow.

The wine is exactly the same as the White Foil but with a dosage (addition of sugar) of 34 grams per litre as opposed to 9gpl. If you’ve never had sweet champagne with rich pâté, smoked fish, hard and blue cheeses, Eton Mess or even wedding cake, you’re in for a copper-bottomed treat. It’s fabulous and — keep this to yourself — it also makes a magnificent mid-morning treat when you need a lift to get through the rest of the day. £37.99 per bottle down from £41.55.

The wines are offered per dozen bottles or six magnums and delivery, as ever, is free.

Written byJonathan Ray

Jonathan Ray is the Spectator's wine editor.

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