The first bottle of Pol Roger ever exported went to England in 1876, and the Britons fell in love at first gulp. In fact, Winston Churchill was such a fan of this brand that he named his favorite racehorse Pol Roger. The champagne house returned the tribute, posthumously,
by naming one of their wines Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.
Not long ago I sat down with Christian Pol-Roger (the family name is hyphenated although the brand name is not) over a meal during which we drank only his wines (not such hard duty). He is suave, charming, and elegant without being stuffy. Like the man, the Pol Roger wines are also sophisticated and refined. The 1995 Brut Chardonnay is racy and crisp with a lovely streak of pure fruit; it is delicious and perfectly balanced.
Lanson may not be the first name that pops to mind when champagne is mentioned, but it's a bubbly that's well worth getting to know. Founded in 1760, this is actually among the oldest houses in the Champagne region. One of the original owners was a member of the Knights of Malta, a fraternal and military order dating back to the 11th century, which explains why the Maltese Cross is featured prominently in the Lanson logo.
The Noble Cuvée is the prestige champagne in the Lanson lineup, made only in years when the quality of the grapes warrant it. There have only been four vintages released since the Noble Cuvée was first created in 1979. Lanson is one of the very few houses that eschews the standard malolactic fermentation customary in champagne. The company’s feeling is that avoiding fermentation keeps the wines fresher during the lengthy aging that these champagnes are given. The 1988 is lush and toasty with a creamy texture and a long, nutty finish.
LAURENT-PERRIER 1990 GRAND SIÈCLE ALEXANDRA ROSÉ, $250
Deep, Complex, and Rich
Super with fruit-based desserts
POL ROGER 1995 BRUT CHARDONNAY, $80
Racy, Crisp, and Pure
Fantastic with caviar
LANSON 1988 NOBLE CUVÉE BRUT, $100
Creamy, Lush and Toasty
Lovely for ringing in the New Year