Presented here are the second half of my tasting notes from the recent Pol Roger masterclass in London, presented by 5th generation family member Hubert de Billy and managing director of the Pol Roger portfolio, John Simpson MW.
A few notes on the wines: Pol Roger had been using concrete vats since 1930, introducing cask barrels in 1975. Stainless steel came in to play in 1985 and their entire operation moved to steel in 2012.
Vintage Pol Roger is a blend of 30-40 villages. They have 92 hectares of their own, but have access to 33,200 hectares in total. They have stated that they will happily buy up any adjoining land to their vineyards that comes up for sale but, as the average cost of a hectare of land is 1.4 million euro’s, they are sometimes adding plots the size of an average UK back garden.
Pol Roger Brut 1999
This wine is the colour of dark hay but carries with it a lovely golden rim. The nose is dense with a good intensity and leaves a full and rich impression. This begins with dried yellow fruits, honey and light brioche, and moves in to darker tones of old wood and candied burnt sugar. The palate manages to retain vibrancy whilst showing the signs of good ageing. A mellow acid glides you through burnt toast, herbaceous notes and a clear biscuit character. These give way to dried apricot and pineapple, and a clear long finish extremely reminiscent of toffee. This is a well-structured wine which wasn’t hugely respected at the time (coming straight after the great 1998 and just prior to the millennial vintage), and is ready for drinking now (although will last for a further 20 years). For me, it was probably the highlight of this masterclass. Wonderful stuff.
Pol Roger Brut 1996
I may have been imagining it but there were almost hints of red in the dark gold colour of this wine. A distinct ‘high’ nose spoke of a wine just starting to oxidise and tire, it gave off touches of wet undergrowth, leather and coffee. The nose was also distinctly yeasty (it took me right back to visiting the Guinness factory in Dublin). The palate was still vibrant although also showing age with over-ripe and dried yellow fruit, a light tannin and slightly cloying candied sugar. Dark and brooding with coffee and nuts, a light cream and the persisting acid mean that it is an austere wine that can still give pleasure, but needs drinking up soon.
Pol Roger Rosé 2006
This was the dark colour of wild salmon, but the nose was light, floral and expressive, with red cherry and smoky, savoury characters. The cherry leads the palate, followed up by strawberries and cream. There’s a clean medium acid running throughout which glides you through some smoky characters and just takes the edge off the underlying sweetness of the wine.
Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 2004
Released this year, this grand cuvée is deep golden yellow in colour. The nose gives off fresh citrus lemons and ripe yellow melon before heading off in to sweet coffee and rich cream, toast and a popcorn-like buttery character. There was also some fleshy green apple and pips hidden amongst the darker notes. The palate is dense, nutty (certainly walnuts), ground coffee, savoury (some cheese), with sweet spice and mellow acid. A lovely long finish, and somehow ‘golden’ in taste.
Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 2000
Even darker gold in colour than the 2004, this wine also has amber hints to it. The nose begins with stewed green fruit, and a slight oxidised character. The herbaceous, sweet woody notes tell you that this is a wine that has seen some good ageing. The palate is full and round, very dense and very creamy. Guided with a medium acidity, the lemon citrus and apple flesh lead on to dried pineapple, peach skin, milky coffee, and nuts. Despite these later darker tones the wine retains a vibrant and refreshing mousse and is a juxtaposition of light and dark. Wonderful for drinking now or keeping.
These tasting notes round out my blog on what was an extremely pleasurable and memorable event. The first part of my tasting notes from this event can be found here.