Champagne Pol Roger 1914: What makes a Luxury Wine...Extraordinary?

(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr) At first, you may say that a champagne is extraordinary because the taste of this luxury wine is just...extraordinary. "Taste is the one sense that brings the greatest enjoyment" great food-lover Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin once said. But Taste is very relative, controlled by the cerebral cortex and strongly influenced by culture. Therefore, taste varies enormously from each person. On the day I tasted Pol Roger 1914 with champagne experts, we all shared the same enthusiasm: " It's fresh, elegant, intense with delicate bubbles. How can it be so lively after 97 years?. This champagne is really extraordinary."

What makes this champagne so lively is not only its taste. Hubert de Billy, from the owning family, made it lively when he explained that "it was disgorged in 1934 and that it can age for long years still." Yes, you read it right, this champagne was disgorged around 80 years ago and does not go into this fashionable category of RD champagnes (RD meaning Recently Disgorged) that we can find now on the market. This is an OD Champagne (OD does not mean "Oh my Dear" even if Winston Churchill could have said so if he had put his nose in the glass but OD would mean literally Old Disgorgement). In fact, tasting a RD 100 years old champagne is by itself unique but tasting a 100 years old champagne disgorged in 1934 makes the experience even more extraordinary.

How can Pol Roger still have these old vintages in their cellar?

"After 1924, the economy in Champagne was much better" commented Hubert de Billy. "Pol Roger developped its business and in 1934 we opened our new celliers at 34 Avenue de Champagne, still a landmark building in the town. It was the right time to disgorge these bottles and stock them. Most of our current business being based on selling the more recent champagnes, we took the opportunity to cellar these 1914 bottles."

Even for experts, guessing the vintage and disgorgement year for this bottle would have been simply impossible. The champagne was so fresh, vibrant and lively. We could easily feel the power of chardonnay grapes in this champagne, maybe sourced from vineyards around Epernay (Chouilly...). But nobody knows exactly and who cares as long as the champagne is superb...In fact, secrets kept in this bottle made the champagne even more extraordinary.

Even with a little knowledge of history, we all know that 1914 was the beginning of the first world war. So we can easily understand that making champagne during this period was complicated. "Maurice Pol Roger, mayor of the city of Epernay at this time, was looking for opportunities to develop the economic situation of his town. Men had to go to war and Maurice said to the women to go and harvest. The town decided to print bank notes in order to pay for each volume of grapes harvested.." said Hubert de Billy.

This is the end of the story and, at this stage, you may have the anwer to the question asked at the beginning of this article. Like it says on each bottle of Chateau Gruaud Larose "Le Vin des Rois, Le Roi des Vins", Pol Roger 1914's label should mention “Harvested to the sound of guns. To be drunk to the sound of Trumpets”. On the other day, there were not only trumpets but a full orchestra playing a symphony. In our glass, aeration made this wine even more complex in terms of aromas and intense on the palate. The champagne, by itself, was superb. Superb but the rest made it just....extraordinary.(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr)