From €109, $180, Ca$184, NZ$259, 4,279 Czech Koruna (a new currency for this site), HK$1,800, £188, Sing$329, 879 Polish Zlotys
Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 1996 is a stunning wine that looked great-becoming-greater when it was launched at a great tasting of several vintages of Pol's top cuvée in 2006. I am now able to see how that potential has been realised. It's a lovely complex bready wine now that has none of the excess of acidity that is still dominating some 1996s - perhaps thanks to Pol Roger's trademark substantial style than is, of course, even denser in the wine they have named after one of the most substantial men in British history. (There is a long association between this family-owned champagne house and the Spencer-Churchill/Soames family.)
I thought then that it smelled like a cross between a red and a white burgundy from the Côte de Beaune and noted that the blend had a rather higher proportion of Pinot Noir than previous vintages. I tasted it again the other day, next to the much tighter Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 1999 and was thrilled by how well the 1996 had developed in bottle. This extremely complete wine is a 1996 that has quite enough density and ripeness to compensate for that vintage's naturally high acidity - unlike some 1996s.
As you can see from the number of currencies listed above, this very special occasion wine is remarkably widely distributed, and according to winesearcher.com it is particularly easy to find at a decent price in the Netherlands. The unpromisingly named Irish online retailer www.booze.ie has it at €110 and according to winesearcher.com, one Palm Springs retailer is offering it at less than €180 a magnum but surely that should be the per bottle price. The best per-bottle price in the UK seems to be Specialitywines.com (R&B Wines of London SW7) who are offering it at £188 a bottle - a serious wine at a serious price.
Those living in the US prepared to undertake this sort of reckless spending to see in the New Year are advised to check out Salon 1996, another quite stunning, fresher and more piercing, 1996 champagne just coming into the peak of its powers as I recommended at the end of my list of 40+ festive fizzes. It's not easy to buy it by the single bottle in the UK but winesearcher lists many retailers of it in the US are single bottle prices from £250 (£162). You can also find it in France at a similar price whereas in the UK it costs at least £225 a bottle and a commitment to spend much more.
Whatever you decide to open tomorrow night to salute the end of 2010 - tiptop 1996 champagne or a mug of cocoa at 9pm - we wish you an extremely fine evening and everything you wish for in 2011. (Please note that once life returns to normal, our wines of the week will return to Fridays and we will all return to bread and water.)