This bottle of Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs 2013 was a terribly kind birthday gift from the renowned fizz writer Steven Pritchard, Thank you Steven! I will add an apology at this point for the lack of posts recently; I have been on holiday and getting increasingly depressed.
Steven says Pol Roger are currently in his bad books; they are in mine too, probably for the same reasons. There has been a lot of bottle variation in the wines of Pol Roger.
Surprisingly, I have found the Pol Roger non-vintage to be unreliable. The whole point of non-vintage Champagne from Grand Marques is that they are consistent. Variation in non-vintage Champagne is remarkable and distinctly poor form.
Furthermore, the vintage Pol Roger has shown incredible bottle variation. This is not just between bottles disgorged at different times (most Champagne is disgorged on demand these days), but I have tried bottles from the same case that have been wildly different.
Not just different, but a lot of them have been downright crap. Yes, there have been good ones, but when you are handing over the significant amount of cash that vintage Champagne goes for, and it is supposedly only made in the best of years, you do not expect to drink wine which is a load of old rubbish. They have been crap far too often.
Steven might have views on the Blanc de Blancs, which in my few tastes seems to have retained quality, and Sir Winston Churchill, of which I have only a couple of recent tastes, as regard to their quality and consistency, but as I have intimated, I have too little experience. Perhaps I can bully Steven into leaving a comment about these.
The 2013 Champagne vintage suffered cool weather at flowering that reduced yields, and the growing season was so long that a late harvest in autumn risked rot setting in. Some properly good wines were made, the best being mostly (or entirely) from Chardonnay (thanks for the Blanc de Blancs, Steve!), but it is not a great vintage.
Champagne Blanc de Blancs Vintage 2013, Pol Roger
Now this is the nose of a good Champagne! Very elegant, very polished, it pulses with quality from the first sniff.
Pol Roger clearly have access to some great vineyards in the Cote des Blancs as this has all the refinement and class that one would hope to find from a good example from the Chardonnay-district. There is delicious apple and lemon fruit.
Additionally, it has a floral character that one finds in the best Cote des Blancs wines, daisies and cornflowers. These floral characters seem to express a surprisingly red fruit aspect. There are wafts of fresh strawberries and raspberries drifting about serenely on the nose of this Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs. Nothing overpowering – just highly attractive hints of these aromas.
It has clearly benefitted from a good period on its lees; there is a nice, toasty, autolytic complexity here. This autolytic character is not allied to any oxidation – it is all fresh and lively.
If I have not made this clear, then I will be direct: This is an extremely attractive nose of a really high-quality fizz. It smells better than any Blanc de Blancs I have had in quite a while, especially the bloody awful Exton Park Blanc de Blancs I had last week – the was a boring load of old toss.
With such an attractive nose it is with great delight that I will have a taste!
God, that is gorgeous! It is so refined and such a sculpted model of beauty. I feel ravished by its winsome charms just as my impressions begin to form.
OK, let us get analytical. The first perception one gets is the texture of the wine. It is so polished and sophisticated. It flatters your palate and assures you that you will have a wonderful time with this Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs, especially if you suddenly announce you must make a call in the bedroom and you take your glass and the bottle with you!
Then there is the fruit, again fresh, biting apple and lemon – with the sapid acidity of both – but with the merest hint of something a bit weightier and more exotic, something between ripe pears and melon. This fruit is vivid and extravagantly energetic – so much pert liveliness thrills both bits a chap thinks with.
This life is enhanced by the swirl of fresh flower scents that bubble up your nose as you give this a good workover in your mouth. Again, there is the merest suggestion of red fruit to this. Very pleasing – throbs with sophistication.
Those toasty, autolytic flavours are a good foil for the freshness of the fruit and the floral lightness of the Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs. They perhaps show the beginnings of a suggestion of oxidation, from reserve wines no doubt, but I am not bothered by this in the slightest. The balance here is impeccable and it is an enormous pleasure to taste every detail present here. There are a lot of details here.
But sometimes you must swallow. With this Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs it is a distinct delight and just slithers joyfully into your belly. It is extremely long, with so many flavours cascading across your tonsils and uvula.
There is also that really important character of fizz from in proper places (like Champagne and Hampshire), a tight, grippy chalky edge at the back of your palate. This brings scintillating energy to the finish, which, in addition to the energy brought by every other aspect of this extremely impressive and highly enjoyable fizz, gives the perception of a huge burst of silken excitement as you swallow.
With this bottle of Blanc de Blancs 2013, at least, Pol Roger have delivered on the class, love and enjoyment one should get from a prestige Champagne. From the first scents as you pop the bottle to the last drop glugged in bed, this will pleasure you immensely. Extremely fine fizz. Do not bother ageing it, it is showing wonderfully well now… at least this bottle is…
Huge thanks, Steven, that cheered me up no end. I love proper fizz, and this was lubriciously good fizz.
This bottle came from The Wine Society, but it is broadly available.
With this post I am exactly 99.9% of the way toward Opus 1,600. Hell’s bells, what a lot of drivel!
Not sure “renown” is the right word, perhaps “infamy” would have been better! 🙂
I used to love the wines from Pol Roger, they had a lovely richness married with supreme complexity. They never had the precision of other houses (such as Roederer), that wasn’t their style.
When they’re on form, they’re still excellent! The problem is one of bottle variation! The problems began appearing in the vintage releases from 1999 onwards, the first vintage of the ex-Krug chefs-de-cave Dominique Petit. One wonders if he brought with him a cellar palate developed at Krug, as the Pinot dominated Pol Roger vintage, and Winston Churchill became even richer and bottle variation more common. The pursuit of that textural richness in wines vinified in stainless steel was achieved (I have no information to back this up, just suspicion) by increasing oxygen exposure or decreasing SO2. Neither of these things is a good thing with global warming and increasing pH.
Cork adds another variable making small variations in closure massive in terms of impact on the wine. And BAM!
But why not the Blanc de Blancs? One suspects the lower pH of Chardonnay has protected the wine somewhat (increasing the efficacy of SO2). These are full-bodied Chardonnay sure, but they retain their poise.
I do like White label still, with so little reserve wine, they will always be an expression of base vintage, but they retain freshness and precision. Utterly delightful in magnum.
Pol Rose’ is a discussion for another day….
Thank you for replying, Steve, it is very kind of you to drop by the site. What can I say but, yes, your logic makes a lot of sense. The Blanc de Blancs really stands out as a shining star in a fading night sky of less impressive prestige wines from Pol. This was, as I say, super. I really have gone off White Foil, there’s better out there for both less and more money. Rosé… let’s not, eh?
Thank you so much for the kind gift, I cannot articulate how much drinking and writing it up has perked me up!