Pol Roger made his first sale of wine in January 1849. Family circumstances forced him to set up a business his father, a notary, had contracted an incurable disease and could no longer carry on his practice. The customer was a merchant in Aÿ, the native village of Pol Roger. The firm developed rapidly. From Aÿ, it moved to Epernay in 1851. As early as 1855, Pol began to favor production of brut Champagne. He knew that this was the type of Champagne which the English preferred. By 1899, when its founder died, the brand has acquired an enviable amount of recognition. It had only taken about thirty years.
The Rogers lived in Aÿ, a village famous for its vineyards, lying at the foot of the Montagne de Reims. Pol Roger was only 18 when, on 2nd January 1849, he made his first sale of wine. Circumstances obliged him to take such an initiative : his father, a notary, contracted an incurable disease and had to give up his practice. The family settled in Ã‰pernay in 1851, where the firm would be able to develop. When Pol Roger died of pneumonia in 1899, his two sons were ready to take over from him.
On 23rd February 1900, a disaster occurred: Part of the cellars and the buildings collapsed. Five hundred casks and one and a half million bottles were lost. By this time, Pol Roger's sons, Maurice and Georges, were in charge of the firm. A show of solidarity together with brothers determination enabled the firm to overcome this catastrophe. Exports progressed and many crowned heads became customers of the brand. The top restaurants on the Champs-Elysees were serving Pol Roger, but the First World War was to bring this expansion to a halt.
Maurice and Georges Roger took over from their father, Pol. They has worked alongside him since the age of 18. The two brothers' determination enabled the firm to overcome a catastrophe, when in February 1900, the cellars collapsed. In that same year, they obtained the right to change their family name to Pol-Roger, as a tribute to their father. The Pol-Rogers were active participants in viti-vinicultural organisations and other professional associations. In 1912, Maurice was elected Mayor of Epernay. He acted in an exemplary fashion during the German occupation of the town in 1914.
Prohibition in the United States and the Russian Revolution made export more difficult. Yet Pol Roger Champagne was present in more and more countries, and the firm's expansion continued. The founding family's direct control over the firm helped it to maintain its identity as it grew. Then came the crisis of 1929 which rendered the economic situation difficult. When the Germans occupied France during the Second World War, the production and the buying of Champagne were controlled by the Wehrmacht.
The pair of brothers, Maurice and Georges, proved very successful. Maurice was the voice of the firm, taking care of its public relations, sales and marketing. Georges was the nose, sometimes described as the taster-in-chief, looking after the making of the Champagne. The latter was also in charge of the financial management. The year 1927, with the arrival of Jacques, Maurice's son, heralded the arrival of a third generation in the firm. In the 40s, Odette Pol-Roger, became friends with Winston Churchill.
The emblematic figure of Winston Churchill left his mark on the post-war period. This British statesman was an unwavering client of the Maison Pol Roger: The most delightful address in the world, he declared. It was in 1955 that a general improvement in sales could be felt. The range of wines was enlarged, and this gave an additional impetus to the development of Pol Roger's fame. In 1961, a vintage Rosé was launched. A few years later, a special vintage was born, the Cuvée Winston Churchill was born in 1975. At the same time, the firm developed and reached 201 acres in 1999. The previous year, the United States had become the biggest export market.
Georges Pol-Roger passed away in 1950, Maurice in 1959. The third and fourth generations of the family began to run the company. Jacques and Jean were at the controls, assisted by Christian de Billy (Maurice Pol-Roger's grandson). In 1963, Christian Pol-Roger arrived to strengthen this collegial management. The first member of the fifth generation entered the business in 1988: Hubert de Billy, son of Christian, became Sales Manager for France. Patrice Noyelle, who is not a member of the founding family, joined the management team in 1997.
The firm adopted a more aggressive sales strategy, with new importers representing the brand in Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Australia. Significant changes were made in the winery, which underwent complete renovation, in a constant quest for better quality. The enlargement of the premises and the installation of new stainless steel vats was completed in 2004. 2001 saw the launching of a new cuvée called “Rich", which is almost a demi-sec. In that same year, the logo and the bottle were redesigned in order to bring more elegance and distinction. In Vintage_2007 the house launched the cuvée “Pure", Extra Brut, to offer new another style to the range.
The management team was composed of Christian Pol-Roger, in charge of exports, Hubert de Billy, presiding over sales in France and marketing, Patrice Noyelle, the Chief Executive. The supervisory committee comprised Aymar le Roux, Christian de Billy, and Evelyne de Billy (Vineyard Director). In 2006, Laurent d'Harcourt joined the company as Export Manager while Christian Pol-Roger integrated the supervisory committee.
In July 2013 Laurent d'Harcourt succeeded Patrice Noyelle and takes over the position of President of the Board of Directors. Laurent joined Pol Roger in 2006 as an Export Director, to replace Christian Pol-Roger, and was appointed to the Board of Directors in June 2008. Laurent d'Harcourt and Hubert de Billy (member of the Board of Directors) are supported by an experienced management team: Dominique Petit (Cellar Master), Evelyne de Billy (Vineyard Manager), Isabelle Gautier (Financial Director) and Hugues Romagnan (Export Director).
THE “CUVEE SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL"
The relationship between Champagne Pol Roger and Sir Winston Churchill dates back to a providential meeting at a luncheon given by the British Ambassador to France some months after the liberation of Paris at which was served the sumptuous 1928 vintage of Pol Roger. Attending the lunch was the beautiful Odette Pol-Roger as well as the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, with whom she struck up an instant rapport. A friendship was born which continued until Churchill's death, creating links between the Pol-Roger and Churchill families which are still as strong to this day.
The pressures of his post sadly prevented Churchill ever paying a visit to 44 Avenue de Champagne, the home of Champagne Pol Roger, but he nonetheless proclaimed it “the most drinkable address in the world". As recompense for breaking his promise to visit he sent Odette a copy of his Memoirs inscribed “Cuvée de Réserve, mise en bouteille au ChÃ¢teau de Chartwell". He even named one of his racehorses “Pol Roger" and the lly strode to victory at Kempton Park in 1953, Coronation Year.
Champagne Pol Roger created their Prestige Cuvée in homage to Sir Winston Churchill mindful of the qualities that he sought in his champagne: robustness, a full-bodied character and relative maturity. ThÂ¬e exact blend is a closely guarded family secret but it is undeniable that the composition would meet with the approval of the man to whom it is dedicated: “My tastes are simple, I am easily satisfied with the best". Pinot Noir predominates, providing structure, breadth and robustness whilst Chardonnay contributes elegance, finesse and subtlety. Composed exclusively of grapes sourced from Grand Cru Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards which were already under vine during Churchill's lifetime, “Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill" is only made in the very best vintages and is always released later than the other vintage dated Champagnes from Pol Roger, marking Churchill's appreciation for older wines.
The wine is a deep golden-yellow colour with a continuous thread of lingering bubbles. The elegant nose delivers intense and complex aromas, dominated by enticing notes of dried fruit, toasted almond and honey. On the palate the wine is full bodied, boasting a powerful, rich structure, yet well-balanced with a refreshing acidity and flavourful notes of citrus fruit. The finish shows a remarkable length, with creamy notes of butter combined with rich fruitiness of Mirabelle plum and tart, ripe pear.