The English-speaking world's most popular news website purports to draw a daily audience of more than 10 million readers, and while I rarely count myself among them, one headline last week did catch my eye:

"Did you know Churchill drank 42,000 bottles of champers?"

The claim is one of a stream culled from a new book by the team behind the television programme QI. The total amount of fizz - enough to float a battleship - is a simple calculation which takes an arbitrary date of 1908, when Sir Winston Churchill was 34, and assumes he drank an average of two bottles a day for the rest of his life.

Personally, I reckon those government guidelines of up to three to four units of alcohol a day for men and two to three for women are a bit tight, but two bottles a day? That works out at 126 units a week before you add Churchill's occasional glass of hock for breakfast or the diluted Johnnie Walker Red, known as Papa's Cocktail, which he sipped most mornings. Then there was lunch and an even more liquid dinner to follow.

Churchill's American biographer, William Manchester, studied the statesman's alcoholic intake and wrote that it "reaches its peak late in the evening after he has had two or three scotches, several glasses of champagne, at least two brandies and a highball". If true, it seems a miracle he made it to middle age, let alone got the country through its darkest hour.

Last Christmas, the British Medical Journal caused a stir by claiming James Bond was a borderline alcoholic. After analysing the books by Ian Fleming, the BMJ calculated he was averaging 92 units a week and wouldn't have been able to shoot straight or perform in bed. You wonder what they would have made of our wartime leader, if he really was hitting the bottle that hard.

Churchill liked to claim he took more out of alcohol than it took out of him, but I suspect it's part of the myth. According to the historian Michael Richards, "he amused himself by allowing people to think he had a bottomless capacity". Richards reckons the drinks and cigars were "at least partly a prop".

Whatever his champagne consumption, he was certainly loyal to his favourite brand, Pol Roger. In return Pol Roger has been selling its vintage Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill since 1984.