Pol Roger Brut Réserve NV (Gift Box)
Pol Roger Brut Réserve NV Box
Pol-Roger-Brut-Réserve-NVIN

Pol Roger Brut Réserve NV (Gift Box)

Sale price$84.95
Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne & Côtes des Blancs, Champagne, France

Style: Champagne Brut

Varieties: Pinot Noir (34%), Chardonnay (33%), Pinot Meunier (33%)

Closure: Cork

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Pol Roger Brut Réserve NV (Gift Box)

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Burke Road
Camberwell VIC 3124
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Producer: Pol Roger

Country: France

Region: Champagne

Vintage: Non Vintage

Critic Score: 95

Alcohol: 12.5%   Dosage: 9g/l

Size: 750 ml

Drink by: 2025


A layered and complex champagne. Creamy and delicious - James Suckling

James Halliday Top 100 of 2020

"My tastes are simple, I am easily satisfied with the best."  Sir Winston Churchill

The Pinot Noir from some of the best crus of the Montagne de Reims brings structure, body and power, the Pinot Meunier from several crus from the Vallée de la Marne and from the Epernay area brings freshness, roundness and fruitiness, and the Chardonnay from some of the best crus of the Côte des Blancs and from Epernay adds aromatic complexity, finesse, elegance and lightness. The wine is aged for 4 years in the Pol Roger cellars before being disgorged and released onto the market. 

"One of my favourite champagne houses. This entry point has a flowery bouquet, terrific mouthfeel thanks to a hint of honey, and Meyer lemon cleansing the finish and aftertaste." - James Halliday 

Once harvested, the grapes are immediately and delicately pressed. The must undergoes two débourbages (settlings of the must), one at the press house immediately after pressing and the second, a débourbage à froid, in stainless steel tanks at 6°C over a 24 hour period in the winery. A slow cool fermentation with the temperature kept under 18°C takes place in stainless steel with each variety and each village kept separate until the final blending. All of the wines go through full malolactic fermentation. After tasting, blending and bottling, the secondary fermentation and maturation takes place in bottle in the deepest Pol Roger cellars in Épernay These cellars are located 33 metres below street level and have a temperature of 9 degrees Celsius, said to be 0.5 to 1.5 degrees colder than most other Champagne cellars. This slows down the speed of the second fermentation, requiring a longer aging on the lees resulting in a very fine and persistent mousse and great finesse and longevity. Lastly, each bottle is given a traditional rémuage, a rarity in Champagne nowadays, which means that all the bottles are riddled by hand before disgorging and dosage.

"Pol Roger Brut Réserve displays a beautiful golden straw coloured hue, as well as abundant and fine bubbles. With a powerful and attractive nose, it first delivers aromas of fruit (pear, mango ...) and then releases light flavours of honeysuckle and white jasmine, lingering on vanilla and brioche notes. Behind a frank and dynamic attack, the wine encompasses a nice harmony and a pleasant freshness, whilst preserving some structure. On the palate, flavours of cooked fruit (quince jelly, apricot jam) happily mingle with fragrances of beeswax and acacia honey. The long-lasting aromas, composed of both fruity (candied orange peel, tangerine...) and spicy notes (cardamom, anis) are outstanding. All the know-how of our firm is revealed in its ability to reproduce each year a blend which is consistent in style and quality."  Pol Roger 

Expert reviews

"One of my favourite champagne houses. This entry point has one-third each of pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay from 30 crus, 25% reserve wines, spending 4 years on tirage. It has a flowery bouquet, terrific mouthfeel thanks to a hint of honey, and Meyer lemon cleansing the finish and aftertaste. Tasted Nov 2021."  James Halliday, Halliday Wine Companion - 95 points and 2020 Top 100 Wines

"Richly biscuity on the nose, with steamed rice, fresh pear and citrus blossom complexity. Creamy mousse dissolves into red apple peel, lemon and stone fruits, with a depth of honeyed biscuits. The Reserve NV from Pol Roger is a blend of base wines from at least three vintages. With 6 months of post-disgorgement ageing, the wine is ready to enjoy now."  Decanter - 93 points 

"The current release of Pol Roger's NV Brut Réserve is quite dramatic, bursting with aromas of mandarin oil, honeycomb, elderflower, fresh bread and musky peach. Medium to full-bodied, fleshy and enveloping, it's generous and textural, with a rich core of fruit, lively acids and a pillowy mousse. Tasted April 2021."  William Kelley, Wine Advocate - 92 points

"A layered and complex Champagne with pie crust, lemon peel, dried apple, pineapple tart and subtle spice notes. Sleek bubbles. Creamy and delicious."  James Suckling, JamesSuckling.com - 92 points

"This is the nonvintage cuvée from this producer. It is in a rich style, with a high proportion of Pinot Noir, very much the house style. This bottling is fresh and hinting at maturity. Drink now."  Roger Voss, Wine Enthusiast – 92 points

Awards

James Halliday Top 100 Wines 2020

Hubert de Billy

Hubert de Billy, fifth generation owner of Pol RogerHubert de Billy, the distinguished fifth-generation owner of Champagne Pol Roger and the great-great-grandson of Pol Roger, joined the business in 1988.

"I am the fifth generation owner of Pol Roger and I have been surrounded by champagne since the age of 16. My destiny to work in the Champagne industry was confirmed at birth! My mother, Chantal Budin, was born at 11 Avenue de Champagne in Epernay and my father, Christian de Billy, was born at 48 Avenue de Champagne in Epernay. My maternal grandfather was the General Manager of Perrier-Jouët and had been Mayor of Epernay during the Second World War, whilst my father was the great-grandson of Monsieur Pol Roger and grandson of Maurice Pol-Roger, the mayor of Epernay during the First World War.

Being the only son in my generation, it was difficult to turn my back on the business. My career started as a salesman liaising with our English and French distributors and I was later sent to the wineries of California to gain work experience. After that I attended university before taking over the business side of the operation. The champagne business can be very nice, very glamorous. But there are two distinct aspects to my job: the production side and the glitzy events we stage to promote the product. I might spend one day with a thousand people, including royalty, and the next will be a cosy media lunch. I also spend a lot of time at the vineyard talking to our growers. It is a duty but I enjoy it very much," says de Billy.

A very important part of de Billy's role is to decide, together with Chef de Cave Damien Cambres, on the potential blending of the cuvées. They are then presented to the rest of the family members for final approval.

The following article by Jamie Goode appeared in the Wine Anorak in 2020.

Family-owned Pol Roger is one of the most highly regarded Champagne houses. They aren't huge, and a high proportion of their grape intake comes from their own vineyards: their 93 hectares of vines is sufficient for half their needs. We visited with the charismatic and ever-so-slightly flamboyant Hubert de Billy on a day in early March.

The house of Pol Roger was founded in 1849. Pol Roger was the son of a solicitor in Aÿ. He was living next to Bollinger, and he decided to produce Champagne at home to sell to other producers. 'Over time, some of his friends said to him your wine is very good and you should sell it under your own name,' says De Billy. 'Aÿ was already overbooked – the streets are very small and it has always been locked between the vineyard and the canal. At the end of the 19th century, before the arrival of the train, Aÿ was the same size as Épernay. 'So Pol Roger moved to Épernay, where it is now. These days, Pol Roger has 54 employees. A century ago there were 300 employees, making much less wine. We are quite large with 54,' he adds. 'We do the riddling by hand. So we could save 5 people, but this is not our philosophy.'

'The philosophy of winemaking is the grape first,' says de Billy. 'All the technical choices are to focus on the taste of the grapes, so we have no barrels. Everything that can add a foreign taste is forbidden.' The winery is almost entirely stainless steel, but they still have a few concrete vats which they use for the reserve wines. 'We think that concrete is very difficult to use for the fermentation, but for storage it is perfect.' They last bought a barrel in 1975, and from 2012 onwards all fermentation has been in stainless steel. 'When it comes to vat size, small is not always beautiful,' says De Billy. He thinks 10 000-15 000 litres is the best size, but they do have to use some smaller vats of 2, 3, 5 and 7000 litres.

Pol Roger winemaking facilitiesOne feature of their winemaking that is unusual is a second decanting process. After pressing in the press house (these are scattered around the vineyards) the juice is settled to let all the gunk fall to the bottom, then removed from these juice lees. This juice goes to the winery. 'We do a second decanting at 7 C in vats at the winery because it has a better cooling system,' says De Billy. The alcoholic fermentation is completed, and then all the wines go through malolactic fermentation. 'One philosophy of Pol Roger is that everything regarding the wine has to be slow,' says De Billy. 'We have slow fermentation, because we cool it down, we take more time because we do the second decanting, we do longer ageing than most of our colleagues. Everything that is to do with the wine has to be slow.'

De Billy says that choosing the reserve wine is one of the key tasks just after vintage. 'When I started in the company in 1988, I did the mistake that all the newcomers make,' he shared. 'I said, this wine is not so good, so let's use it as a reserve. When you start you think that you need to put the best wine in your cuvée, and what you don't use you keep. My uncle told me that it should be the opposite. Because the reserve is used to make the next wine better. Bad wine from the beginning will never give good wine. Most of the reserve wine is selected at the beginning.'

'First I do Churchill and Blanc de Blancs. They are the two smallest productions, and they are the two iconic wines of Pol Roger. Then I select the reserve wine. Then I do vintage and non-vintage at the end.'

'We classify the wines. We taste during one month, beginning at the start of December. We have 3 oenologues in the company. We taste all the vats together. Some vats go to the distillery. After, we decide the vats which are obviously for the non-vintage. By mid January we have tasted everything. I make a decision and give the proposal to the rest of the family. It is like the election of the Pope: we don't leave the room until a decision is made. We start at 9 am and don't leave until we've decided.' 

Until the 1970s Pol didn't source any wine from the Aube. 'This was for taste reasons, not quality (I'm going to be politically correct),' says De Billy. 'Nowadays, we'd like to have some. We have found 3 hectares in Les Riceys and we are very happy, because now the quality of Aube is much higher, and it was a taste that was missing in our palate. It's a taste we'd like to increase a little bit.'

One of the most unusual features about Pol Roger is that they do all – or almost all – the riddling by hand. They have 7 km of cellars, with the lowest at 35 m below the surface where this takes place. 'We are the last to do mostly all our riddling by hand,' says De Billy. 'I must be honest. We are good French and so we take an August holiday so there is a small portion, roughly 5% which is machine riddled, so that we can be sure that in September we can start again. 'They do triage in halfs, bottles, magnums and jeroboams. 'It takes a month to riddle by hand,' he says. 'There are four riddlers and each move 50,000 bottles a day. Each riddler has roughly 200,000 bottles under his own authority. The riddler is the only worker who is his own boss. We are asking him for a perfect wine a month after. We don't ask him how he does it. The sediment moves according to the atmospheric pressure, so in Spring and Fall it is a bit more difficult than in winter and summer. 'Normally people fill Jeroboams afterwards, but Pol Roger riddle quite a lot of them: around 2000. 'It is starting to be quite popular,' says De Billy.

'Cork is still a problem,' he says. 'The problem is the Mytik is not perfect, and real cork is not perfect. I am going to meet Monsieur Amorim in July.'

Billy says that aperitif champagne is a new thing. 'Before the war, champagne was only before the meal and dessert. When people started to move to aperitif champagne, my father didn't want to change things in the cellars, so he changed the cuvee very slowly and created the Blanc de Blancs to answer this new demand. It was their prestige cuvée before they started Winston Churchill. They do only recent disgorgement. Ageing is minimum of six years, and if they can wait another year they do.

They don't put information on the bottle about the blend, the bottling date and the disgorgement date and dosage. 'Our philosophy is don't give details to someone who is not able to understand,' says De Billy, pointing out that the information is on the case, but not the bottle. If the customer asks the question, the retailer can give the answer. They don't hide anything. 'We want to be able to give the details to someone who is able to understand it.'

There's a family resemblance to these wines. They are quite pure and have a nice linear character, but there's generosity too. The non-vintage is four years on lees, and all the NVs are one-third of each of the main grape varieties.

The lost bottles

Pol Roger - A Treasure Trove of Long-Buried BottlesParts of the following text are taken from an article by Laura Seal that appeared in Decanter in February 2018 (Photo: Michaël Boudot)

Pol Roger has excavated some long-lost treasure from the wreckage of a cellar that collapsed in 1900 and buried more than a million bottles of Champagne.

Almost 118 years ago, on 23 February 1900, disaster struck Pol Roger’s cellars in Épernay. Following a period of extreme cold and damp, vast stretches of wall suddenly collapsed during the night, demolishing adjoining buildings and burying 1.5 million bottles of wine, along with 500 casks. There was a sinkhole some 15 metres across and reaching down 20 metres into the earth. Three storeys of Pol Roger’s cellars had collapsed in on themselves. Damage was so extensive that the ground above the cellars caved in, causing the street level to fall by four metres. Great fissures formed in the nearby roads, rue Henri le Large and rue Godart-Roger.

An account from Le Vigneron Champenois tells how Pol Roger’s son Maurice awoke at 2am to 'a dull rumble similar to the sound of thunder. When the workers arrived a few hours later, the disaster was complete.' Maurice and his brother Georges had hoped they could attempt to salvage the buried wines by tunnelling into the rubble. But after a similar cave-in occurred a month later at the nearby property of Godart-Roger, the plans were abandoned, along with the ruined cellars.

Fast forward almost 118 years exactly and Pol Roger is rebuilding a new packaging facility on the same plot of land. When the collapsed cellars were being industrially excavated, outgoing chef de cave Dominique Petit and his successor, Damien Cambres, happened to notice a large void at the site filled with mountains of broken glass and what appeared to be one intact bottle. Rumours that some bottles had survived the cellar collapse had become the thing of Épernay legend, although few believed that anything could actually have survived the impact of thousands of tons of chalk and clay.

Over the next 2 days, 19 more surviving bottles of bubbly - corked between 1887 and 1898 - came to light. 'The wines are clear, the levels are correct and the corks are depressed,' said the Champagne House. 'These bottles are still on their lees and will have to be hand riddled and disgorged before being tasted. A select few will have the privilege of discovering just how it compares to Champagnes of similar age, which have been carefully curated in the Pol Roger cellars." 

Over the next 12 months the operation to salvage more unbroken bottles started and was stopped by rising water levels and further collapse, but close to 100 bottles were successfully removed.

Chef de Cave Damien Cambers with the first bottle foundChef de Cave Damien Cambers with the first bottle found (Photo: Michaël Boudot) 

The Tasting

The text below is taken from an article by Peter Dean that appeared in The Buyer in October 2019 

There are many special tastings in the world of wine and many special bottles – some of them with plenty of bottle age. But the tasting that took place three days ago in Epernay was in the realm of ‘I was there’. 119 years after its cellars collapsed Champagne Pol Roger opened the first two intact bottles it had managed to retrieve from the rubble of the 1900 catastrophe. Peter Dean was there to witness the preparation, painstaking disgorgement and taste the two wines, one most likely from 1897, the second from 1895 – the first vintage that was bought by Winston Churchill.

There was always the possibility that, sealed hermetically in chalk for 118 years, the Champagne would not only be drinkable but actually very good. Or perhaps the bottle’s opening would be like the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where the power contained within would escape centuries of confinement to destroy the expectant onlookers?

The opening of the bottles

Fast forward to three days ago – the afternoon of Oct 9th 2019 and the moment of truth had arrived. I had been invited as one of five journalists to travel from London to Epernay to witness the opening of, and taste, the first of the two Champagnes retrieved.

There was no special significance to the date except that it was after the 2019 harvest had been completed and at a time when there was a ‘changing of the guard’ in the cellar – Dominic Petit leaving as chef de caves and Damien Cambres finally taking over – a nice baton pass from the old regime to the new. 

After being shown where the calamity had happened and seeing all the bottles that have been retrieved, six were selected by Cambres and taken up to the disgorging room where Francis, an employee blessed with a spectacular mullet and a gift of opening almost any bottle set about his work.

Inverting the first bottle against an angle poise light, Francis first started removing with pliers the red wax that the estate had covered the closure with immediately after the bottles were pulled from the rubble. There was a staple clip and a crumbly end of cork that took 10 minutes of careful manipulation with a Durand to slowly ease out. The rest of the cork looked like it had 'become one' with the glass, so impacted and hard was it to remove.

This was like a sommelier’s worst nightmare and a wine nerd’s wet dream – the Jefferson bottles, this time though, for real; priceless, historic bottle, cork that is half earth, half stone. To make matters worse a bunch of hacks and snappers surrounding the man recording every tiny move.

Cambres and Pol Roger’s MD Laurent d’Harcourt look on, giving very little away. The first part of the cork that had crumbled out was passed from palm to palm and sniffed – it smelt of wine and very good wine at that, like a piece of old madeira cake retrieved from the back of a larder.

Detritus collected at Francis’s feet then a little spurt of liquid, as he managed to remove all the dead yeast from the bottle before pouring a measure of light amber liquid into a tasting glass.

Cambres sniffed, swirled and tasted. Still no flicker of emotion. This guy’s a poker natural.

And then the words we all wanted to hear…. "C’est bon" and the faintest flicker of a smile. OK now I am getting really excited – this stuff is going to be drinkable.

A temporary cork closure was inserted into the now-righted bottle and then Francis began on the second.

Bottle no.2 had no clip and, after another painstaking 10 minutes, an almost intact cork, far longer, was removed from the bottle. The cork is significant because not only did it smell even better than the first but the length of it and the absence of a clip leads Cambres to the belief that this is a bottle that has been disgorged, dating it from the 1895 harvest and bottle no.1 from 1897 (not disgorged).

So both bottles were Pol Roger Champagne made by Monsieur Pol Roger himself, with the 1895 having the added significance of being the first vintage that Winston Churchill bought, starting a relationship that carried on for the rest of his life and which, to a large extent, changed the direction of the house after that.

The moment of truth – to tertiary and beyond

Two bottles in hand, Cambres then led us through the maze of cold cellars to ground level and the tasting room where we were joined by Hubert de Billy, Pol Roger’s great great grandson who confessed that the bottles’ discovery had taken away just that little bit of romance. 

"It’s not a question of sadness, it’s a nice story and I am proud and pleased but now it’s a fact and before it was a bit of a dream."

Without further ado Bottle No. 1 was poured, then bottle no.2. Both liquids were light auburn, the first with a little bit of a haze, the second with microscopic particles in suspension, like a drop of peach juice had been added.

On the nose bottle No.1 had strong Fino notes. Over the course of ten minutes this changed rapidly and with a good deal of complexity – as though the years were catching up with it – nut shells, burnt sugar, polish, caramel, chestnuts on the fire. It was like a very old Madeira. On the palate the acidity was still there, there were pixilated flavours of old windfalls, tarte tatin, liquorice. The flavours were rich and deep. 

Bottle No. 2 was instantly more ‘friendly’ and blow me if that wasn’t the tiniest whisper of fizz disappearing on my tongue. Just the faintest hint which disappeared quickly like a sepia image fading in bright sunlight. The nose was sweeter and had less solera, was more subtle and had an attractive note of meringue kept a little too long in the oven. There were aromas that reminded me of a very, very old Corton. The palate was extraordinary – although there was apparent signs of dosage, the acidity was still amazingly high, there was a fine texture, flavours of old strawberries on the turn, macerated fruit you retrieve from the rumtopf, then a power on the finish and a hit of alcohol that reddened the cheeks. Wow! 

Both wines had real purity, not a hint of a flaw, and quite unbelievably were a pleasure to drink. 

Of course these are not the only old bottles in the eight kilometres of Pol Roger cellars – the ones that did not cave in – they have recently opened a 1892 and earlier this month tasted two bottles of 1914 that were auctioned five years ago in aid of the Imperial War Museum. But the two bottles we tasted are the wines that 'came back from the dead', the survivors, the wines that no one was supposed to drink but did. 

The bottles that were only dreamed about but became a fact. 

It’s hard not to get emotional about engaging with something with such history and tells such a remarkable story but that’s the beauty of wine with age – tasted blind it would maybe have been a different experience but knowing what it was you were experiencing made the event truly remarkable and something that will never fade from memory.

Pol Roger - Family photo with the salvaged bottlesHubert de Billy, Dominique Petit, Laurent d’Harcourt, Christian de Billy and Damien (left to right) Photo: Michaël Boudot   

About the winery

Pol Roger History

The House of Pol Roger is one of the oldest family run enterprises in Champagne. It was founded in 1849 by 18-year-old Pol Roger, the son of a solicitor living in Aÿ, a village famous for its vineyards lying at the foot of the Montagne de Reims. It was here he made his first sale of wine and formed the company under the single name of Roger.

In 1851, the family moved to Épernay, where it is now. Initially the company supplied champagne to other large houses like Perrier Jouët and Moët & Chandon, but by 1855 Pol Roger had acquired his own vineyards and decided to produce sparkling wine under his own label. He decided to focus on Brut Champagne since this was the kind the British preferred.

When Pol Roger died in 1899 at the age of 68, his two sons Maurice and Georges, who had worked alongside him since the age of 18, took over the reins. Three months later catastrophe struck when three storeys of Pol Roger’s cellars collapsed in on themselves burying 500 casks of wine and over one and a half million bottles of Champagne - the loss of the better part of three vintages. Other Houses in Champagne rallied around and saved Pol Roger from almost certain financial collapse. Maurice and Georges then changed their surnames from Roger to Pol-Roger to honor their father and to signify a new beginning and started rebuilding the business. 

In 1927 Maurice's son, Jacques, joined the firm heralding the arrival of the third generation. The connection between the House and Winston Churchill started when Odette Pol-Roger, Jacques's wife, met Churchill at an official lunch at the British Embassy in Paris in 1945. Famous for her beauty, grace and vitality, Odette, who had taken over the firm as unofficial head in the 1940s while still active in the French Resistance, managed to charm Churchill from the beginning. The pair became friends and Churchill’s passion for Pol Roger champagne only solidified as his friendship with Odette grew stronger over the years. After their meeting, Odette regularly sent Churchill a case of his favorite cuvée, the Vintage 1928. When this year ran out, he drank the 1934 until his death in 1965. The House estimates that Churchill consumed a staggering 42,000 bottles of Pol Roger during his lifetime. Odette, who died in 2000 at the age of 89, was the grande dame of the Pol-Roger champagne family and remains the most widely recognised ambassador of the firm to date. 

Georges Pol-Roger passed away in 1950 and Maurice in 1959. The third and fourth generations of the family began to run the company, with Jacques (and Odette) at the helm assisted by Christian de Billy, Maurice's grandson and great-grandson of Pol Roger, who joined the company in 1953 as Export Director. Christian Pol-Roger, also a great-grandson of Pol Roger, arrived in 1963 to strengthen this collegial management and became an ambassador for the brand for over 40 years.

Christian de Billy, who became chief executive officer in 1977, worked tirelessly to preserve the family character, reputation and independence of the business. He not only secured the independence of the house by significantly increasing the size of the family-owned vineyard, but convinced of the need both to refresh the image of the Pol Roger brand and to diversify the offering, he launched the Rosé Vintage cuvée in 1961, the Blanc de Blancs Vintage cuvée in 1965 and the Sir Winston Churchill cuvée in 1985. Christian de Billy passed away at the age of 93 in 2022.

Hubert de Billy, Christian's son and the first member of the fifth generation, joined the business in 1988 as Sales Manager for France and now heads the company, taking over from Cristian de Billy and Christian Pol Roger in 2013. The first member of the sixth generation of the family, Bastien Collard de Billy, joined the business in 2020 as General Secretary and Export Manager.

In 1997, Patrice Noyelle was appointed President of the Board of Directors, the first person outside the founding family to join the management team in the 160-odd year history of the House. 

Today, Pol Roger is still owned by its founding family who sit on the company’s Board of Directors. The company is currently headed by Hubert de Billy, together with Chairman of the Board Patrice Noyelle and Laurent d’Harcourt who succeeded Noyelle as President of the Board in 2013.

The Winery and Cellars

The winery and cellars are located on and under the celebrated Avenue de Champagne in the heart of  Épernay. The production facility, which was opened in January 1901, was badly damaged by German bombing raids in 1918 and was restored to its original design after the war.

The cellars run for 7km underground and are on three levels, the deepest known as the 'cave de prise de mousse' at 33m below street level. As the name suggests, this is where the wine undergoes its secondary fermentation in bottle. These cellars have a temperature of 9 degrees Celsius, said to be 0.5 to 1.5 degrees colder than most other Champagne cellars. This slows down the speed of the second fermentation, requiring a longer aging on the lees resulting in a very fine and persistent mousse and great finesse and longevity.

One of the most unusual features about Pol Roger is that they do all – or almost all – the riddling by hand. "We are the last to do mostly all our riddling by hand," says Hubert De Billy. "There are four riddlers and each move 50,000 bottles a day. Each riddler has roughly 200,000 bottles under his own authority."

The cellars at Pol Roger

From 2001 to 2011 the winery and cellars underwent a complete renovation at the behest of Patrice Noyelle who was the President of the Board of Directors. New stainless-steel vats were installed and from 2012 all fermentation has been in stainless steel. "The philosophy of winemaking is the grape first," says Hubert de Billy. "All the technical choices are to focus on the taste of the grapes, so we have no barrels. Everything that can add a foreign taste is forbidden." 

During this renovation, Pol Roger installed a higher number of smaller tanks (the tiniest contains around 25 hectolitres of wine) to be able to produce in isolation more diverse components of the final blend. "It gives us more possibility and helps make our wines more complex," says Laurent d’Harcourt. "As with painting, the more colours you have the more complex wine you can make. It gives us more precision in our winemaking."

A huge expansion project to house a high-tech production facility was completed in 2023 and will officially be opened in April 2024 as part of Pol Roger’s 175th birthday celebrations. The 4 level building covering 18,000 square metres and costing £50 million had been on the agenda for ten years, was approved by the shareholders in 2019 and began construction in 2020. The building, which rests on the footprint of the historic site of the original cellars (which disastrously collapsed in 1900), allows Pol Roger to modernize and extend its production facilities - disgorgement, packaging, shipment and wine and dry goods storage - all under the one roof while keeping the facilities in the centre of Épernay.

The text below is taken from an article by Sarah Neish published in The Drinks Business, October 2023

Champagne producer Pol Roger gave the drinks business a sneak peek of its high-tech production facility that has been three years and £50 million in the making.

"It’s almost up and running! We’re just moving everything across now," Pol Roger’s managing director Laurent d’Harcourt tells db, his excitement palpable as he throws open the door to a new building, the construction of which has been at the top of the agenda at Pol’s HQ on the Avenue de Champagne for the last three years.

Having surpassed the 1.5 million annual bottle sales mark, Pol Roger was in need of more storage, and a tech upgrade to facilitate a slicker, speedier operation to match its sleek bottle designs and elegant cuvées.

With Pol already squirrelling away a more extensive number of back vintages in its cellar than many other Champagne houses, space was at a premium, despite its 10km of winding underground tunnels.

Behind Pol Roger’s commitment to keeping older vintages lies a passion for demonstrating that Champagnes can be aged for considerably longer than the five-year timeframe in which we are usually encouraged to drink our fizz. d’Harcourt is able to pluck a 1911 bottle out of the cellar and yet quips: "We are a new Champagne house. We have only been here for about 174 years…"

In fact Pol Roger’s 175th birthday falls next year, and as part of its celebrations, the maison will be officially launching the new production site to the trade, with a presentation due to take place in April.

"We started thinking about it almost 10 years ago," says d’Harcourt of the building project. "We got the green light from our shareholders in 2019 and began construction in 2020. Then almost immediately everything was shut down because of Covid and we were left with four cranes in place…"

Disgorgement, packaging and labelling will all take place at the new facility, aided by a a "multi-million pound" robotic machine made by German company Schubert.

Bottles of Pol Roger NV glide smoothly along on a conveyor belt, while a smart camera snaps an image of each and every bottle in order to gauge the positioning of the neck foil. A mechanical ‘hand’ then deftly rotates each bottle… 1cm to the right, 2cm to the left… to ensure that when a second grabber picks up the wine and places it gently into a 3-bottle wooden case, the Pol Roger logo faces upwards in every instance. It’s the Rolls Royce of wine packing.

With Pol exporting 85% of its total production, the house wants to guarantee that whether someone is opening a case of Pol Roger in London or Hong Kong, they will be getting the same first tantalising glimpse.

"Even non-vintage has to look smart" says James Simpson, managing director, Pol Roger Portfolio, as he watches the bottles being efficiently packed like a father proudly watching his kids take laps of the pool.

"Pol Roger NV is the flagship of the house. If it’s not consistent you lose your customers, your admirers," adds d’Harcourt, emphasising the attention to detail for every expression that leaves the facility. From 2024, all wines will be shipped from the new building.

A labelling room reminiscent of a cigar lounge houses a library archive of every front label ever sported by a Pol Roger bottle. Magnums continue to be hand-labelled on-site by members of the team, though a clever new piece of kit allows the heavy bottles to be suctioned up from the floor and deposited on a table for the person in question, saving them the exertion.

With the 2023 Champagne harvest having the heaviest bunches of grape on record, the additional space could not have come at a better time for Pol Roger. The only year when perhaps the harvest was larger was 1970 when, according to d’Harcourt, "we had to store some of our wines in big water reserves because the harvest was so huge…" 

Despite the extra storage that the new building allows, d’Harcourt is nonetheless keen to stress that Pol Roger does not plan to grow "too much".

"In the next 10 years we will see some growth but the Champagne region is selling what it is producing so there is no more availability to source from friends or neighbours." 

Sustainability has been built into the blueprint of the new Pol Roger building from the get-go. A system enables rain water to be collected from the roof to irrigate the freshly landscaped gardens, and the construction "will be run on biomass energy in the future," says d’Harcourt.

"A project like this is not something you can repeat. So it is an investment for the next 30-40 years. The shareholders have given us the green light to invest, and we are doing so in pursuit of excellence," he says. 

Vineyards

Pol Roger Vineyard

The House owns around 100 hectares of vineyards, mostly centred around Èpernay, including Grand Crus Cremant, Chouilly and Avize on the Côtes de Blancs and Ambonnay, Bouzy and Verzy on the Montagne de Reims. The vineyards are all family managed and provide about half of the grapes Pol Roger requires.  

In addition to its own vineyards, the House has worked tirelessly to source the best grapes from up to 150 growers to provide the balance of grapes required for its annual production of 1.7 million bottles. 

Generally Pinot Noir dominant, the collection of wines from the Non-Vintage Cuvèes through to the stellar Cuvèe Sir Winston Churchill show consistency of house style and a pedigree that is the envy of many other grand marques. 

Chef des Caves

Pol Roger - Chef des Caves Dominique Petit and Dominique Petit

Dominique Petit (at rear in photo) was appointed Chef de Cave in 1999 with a wealth of experience behind him, having worked for Krug for over 20 years. This experience and craftsmanship brought a controlled sense of power and concentration to the cuvées at Pol Roger, while still maintaining the supreme elegance and harmony for which Pol Roger is famous.

Petit believes that great Champagne is all about the fruit, the quality of which Pol Roger can control as they own enough vineyards to supply some 50% of the fruit required for annual production.

Careful attention in the vineyard is matched by meticulous care in the winery and cellars. Since Petit joined Pol Roger, more than 9 million Euros has been invested in upgrading the winemaking facilities and since 2011 they have fully moved to stainless steel fermentation and ageing. In the cellars, four 'remuageurs' hand riddle an astonishing 50,000 to 60,000 bottles per day in Pol Roger’s vast network of chalk cellars underneath rue de Champagne in Epernay.

Dominique Petit retired in March 2018 and passed the baton to 43 year-old Damien Cambres (in front in photo). 

wine region map of france

France

There are 16 major French wine regions, each known for their own unique grape varieties, terroir and wines. They are Alsace, Armagnac, Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Bugey, Burgundy, Champagne, Cognac, Corsica, Jura, Languedoc- Roussillon, Loire Valley, Provence, Savoie, South-West and the Rhône Valley.

The largest region is Languedoc- Roussillon, the oldest is Provence, the most influential and famous are Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Loire Valley and the Rhône Valley.

French wine is labelled by wine region or appellation rather than by grape variety (except in Alsace). In order to guarantee the quality and provenance of French wines, the French government established the Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) system. Under this system the wine label indicates the geographical origin, quality and, generally, the style of a wine. Many regions are home to multiple appellations; for example, the prestigious Bordeaux region in the southwest of France has over 60 growing appellations.