HAVING led Britain to victory in World War II as his nation’s Prime Minister and then seen his party thrown out of office in the first election after that war, Winston Churchill had one particularly important job in mind when he was re-elected again by voters in 1951.
And that was to stock-take the cellars when he moved back into the Prime Ministerial home and office at Number 10 Downing Street. And critically for just how many bottles of Champagne they held, and of those how many were of the Champagne-loving Churchill’s favourite drop, Pol Roger.
When the reply came back that there was none, Churchill got straight on the phone to the Champagne house’s owner and his friend, Mme Odette Pol Roger in Epernay, who within an hour had a few cases heading to Number 10 post-haste.
And all this before Churchill had even held his first Cabinet meeting there.
Although he’d been enjoying Pol Roger for years, it was only in 1944 during a visit to Paris after the liberation of France by the Allies, that Churchill first met Jacques and Odette Pol Roger at a luncheon at the British Embassy. He was swept away both by Odette’s beauty and her wit (“as sparkling as her Champagne”), and openly praised her courage as a bicycle courier for wartime’s French Resistance.
As their friendship developed, the Pol Roger’s named their finest premium Champagne as Cuvee Winston Churchill, while he in turn named one of his race horses Pol Roger, and during the last ten years of his life ordered over 500 cases of Pol Roger Champagne – literally a carton a week.
And 46 years after his death in 1965, the French street in which the Pol Roger cellars are located was re-named in 2011 by the local Epernay Municipality, Rue Winston Churchill.