What a month: the clocks spring forward (because it is spring); the Hares go boxing as part of their pairing ritual; it is necessary to keep heads down on the ides (15th), celebrate St Paddy's on the 17th, line the turf accountants' pockets during Cheltenham and rev up for the Duke of Richmond's Members Meeting at Goodwood - and all as we gear up for the end of lent and Easter celebrations of the Risen Christ at the month-end. In the UK, March 2018 has also seen very worrying goings-on with the Russians that would not be out of place in any Ian Fleming novel, almost daily Brexit updates (some indicating the sunny uplands are within sight, others reminding us of our dangerous proximity to the River Styx); the Country has also had to contend with two visits of the "Beast from the East" whilst bidding a sad farewell to both Sir Ken Dodd and Stephen Hawking, amongst others, with a wave of the national tickling stick; exhausting!
Winston Churchill is quoted in 1946 as reflecting that ‘I could not live without Champagne. In victory I deserve it. In defeat I need it’ (after Boney). It is well recorded that WSC had a love (and ferocious thirst) for the cuvees of Pol Roger champagne with an estimated consumption of 42,000 bottles during his lifetime. There are fascinating records in the Cabinet War Rooms of Churchill's requirement for champagne during the second world war - much maligned by the mandarins of the day! The house of Pol Roger do make extremely fine champagnes but it is not known whether Churchill trifled with their pink cuvees at all.
What we do know is that this month represents the 200th anniversary year since that Grande Dame of champagne, the Widow Barbe-Nicole Clicquot (nee Ponsardin), deliberately added some still red wine from her excellent vineyards at Bouzy (a Grand Cru village, famed for its Pinot Noir) to her champagne blend, thereby creating the first official rose champagne. This was her vision and represented a continued trend of pioneering advancement across both production and marketing of champagne wines - and all as a result of her early widowing; this must surely make her the ideal poster-lady of World Women's Day (also a March diary date).
Many champagne houses are currently bottling their 2017 harvest dominated blends ready for the extensive cellar aging and magical second fermentation. As you bring a glass of France's finest to your lips - whether pink, white, vintage or demi-sec - do spare a thought for the journey that champagne wines have enjoyed over the years and for the individuals that have influenced those developments - whether consumers like Churchill or innovative producers like Madame Clicquot or Lily Bollinger.
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