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1911 figures among the most glorious vintages of Champagne. A rare vintage which sometimes appeared on the most prestigious wine lists in Paris restaurants but which was above all exported to Great Britain and the United States.
Climatic conditions / Rarely have they been so favourable. There was considerable contrast between the seasons: a cold, snowy winter, a gentle spring, a warm, dry summer and a sunny autumn. Flowering occurred at the beginning of June in the best possible conditions. Apart from some storms, accompanied sometimes by hail which, however, did not cause any damage, the month of July and August were completely dominated by persistent sultry weather (37° at Epernay on 27th July). At the start of the vintage, the vineyards were in perfect condition.
Result of the vintage
Opening of harvest: 9th September
Surface area under vine: 14,289 hectares
Total volume of harvest: 72,875 "pieces"
Average yield per hectare: 1,600 kilos
Characteristics of the must
In spite of the excellent conditions, the harvest was very small, this in spite of being better than that of 1910 which only yielded 72 litres per hectare - something not seen since 1816 !
The quality of the grapes was exceptional and it was not necessary to resort to preselection. Pressing was difficult because of the thickness of the grape skins ; it was sometimes necessary to work with 420 kilos to yield 2 hectolitres of wine. With a high alcoholic strength (average 10 to 11°, and up to 14° for certain grand crus) and low acidity (5 to 6 grammes per litre) the musts proved to have remarkable quality.
Pol Roger recently celebrated its 150th anniversary and is perhaps best known as Winston Churchill's favourite Champagne. Established in 1849, Champagne Pol Roger remains family-owned and proudly independent to this day. Pol Roger, the 1831 born founder of the house, had lived in the Grand Cru village of Aÿ his whole childhood. The whole family supported the enterprise of their son. From early on Pol Roger focused in exports, and the English market was the most important one from the beginning. The commercial success of the company had its roots in the business model where they produced other champagne brands in the Pol Roger facilities. Pol Roger is one of the few remaining family owned Grande Marque champagne businesses.
The must undergoes two débourbages (settlings), one at the press house immediatly after pressing and the second, a débourbage à froid, in stainless steel tanks at 6°C over a 24 hour period. A slow cool fermentation with the temperature kept under 18°C takes place in stainless steel with each variety and each village kept seperate. The wine undergoes a full malolactic-fermentation prior to final blending. Secondary fermentation takes place in bottle at 9°C in the deepest Pol Roger cellars (33 metres below street level) where the wine is kept until it undergoes remuage (riddling) by hand, a rarity in Champagne nowadays. The very fine and persistent mousse for which Pol Roger is renowned owes much to these deep, cool and damp cellars.
1911 Vintage Brut Champagne, Pol Roger
1911 is among the most glorious vintages of Champagne. A rare vintage, which sometimes appeared on the most prestigious wine lists in Paris restaurants but which was above all exported to Great Britain and the United States.
Unfortunately only a small amount of the wines got to the market before the war broke out in August 1914. Thus I was very lucky to have the opportunity to serve this famous wine at The Vine Club tasting held for the first time in Helsinki.
There were 12 members present, and though they normally would at this point engage in quite lively and loud discussion, they all now sat quietly and focused as of tacit agreement with a glassful of very dark golden yellow wine in their hands.
The magical bouquet of Pol Roger, so soft with a hint of nut, had captivated the whole room. Gradually quiet comments were heard: full-flavoured, remarkably sweet, tender wine, very good length, delicious flavour, fabulous acidity and last but not least - love at first taste - which in my opinion said everything essential. A deeply seductive champagne to which one might stay true for a lifetime, and which still has many good years ahead!