There’s always something special about tasting wine with people that have a real connection to it. So I was thrilled to be able to break bread with the very engaging Alice Paillard, co-proprietor at Bruno Paillard Champagne, when she was in town. The intimate, press-only dinner gave us the opportunity to meet Alice, taste some of her latest disgorgements of the multi-vintage champagnes, as well as get a preview of their 2009 Assemblage. Lucky us!
After doing some background reading about the champagne house, I could feel my excitement building about the upcoming dinner. Bruno Paillard doesn’t just craft champagne, they craft “extra” champagne. Like seriously, every step of the process incorporates some extra effort and quality. Extra time before bottling after harvest. Extra time (minimum of 36 months vs. 15 months required by law) on the lees.1 A reserve wine system, which is a variant of the solera system used in Sherry production, used for the House multi-vintage (MV) champagnes with the oldest reserve wine in the blend being 25 years old. And so much more. Like I said, these champagnes are extra.
Bruno Paillard’s champagne house dream began in 1981 with passion, vision, and 50,000 francs after trading in his beloved vintage Jaguar. He was just 27 years old at the time, but full of entrepreneurial spirit. Today, his iconic champagne house is known the world over by wine connoisseurs. In a land where only a handful of family-owned Champagne houses remain, Bruno Paillard is indeed unique with its independence, not to mention Bruno Paillard’s depth of involvement with each and every blend. And daughter Alice Paillard’s increasing involvement will ensure the family legacy remains intact for years to come.
Everything about the champagne house is synonymous with quality. In addition to sourcing grapes cultivated by the same families for more than 30 years, Bruno Paillard also owns 79 acres of vineyards which accounts for half of the House’s needs (an exceptionally high ratio for a House). Further, nearly half of the House vineyards are in Grand and Premier Cru sites.
From the vineyard to vinification, the commitment to quality continues. Bruno Paillard uses only the highest quality first press juice. Even though Champagne law allows up to 63 centiliters per kilo to be extracted as must for the cuvée, Bruno Paillard only uses the first 50 centiliters to ensure that only the purest fruit flavors make it into the wine. That’s a mere 2 cups of juice from 2.2 pounds of grapes. The wines are finished with an extremely low dosage to craft as authentic of a wine as possible. Finally, each bottle carries the date of disgorgement. In fact, Bruno Paillard was the first producer to do this and was the only one for many years.
So with all of this background, how were the wines? Phenomenal to say the least. These were some rich, elegant, and complex champagnes that were so fun and interesting to drink.
Champagne Bruno Paillard Extra Brut Première Cuvée MV ($50)
The flagship house blend which comes from more than 30 crus and is comprised of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier. Elegant, refined, and delicate with toasted brioche, almonds, apples, and white flowers.
Champagne Bruno Paillard Extra Brut Première Cuvée Rose MV ($60)
Mainly Pinot Noir with some Chardonnay, it is fresh and lively with a creamy mousse. Tart raspberries and strawberries accompanied by zesty mineral notes means this one would appeal to many. It certainly did me.
Champagne Bruno Paillard Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru MV ($70)
All Chardonnay sourced exclusively from grand cru vineyards, this one spent four years on the lees and an additional ten months in bottle after disgorgement. Mineral deliciousness accompanied by toast, lime, and green apples. With a smooth and creamy mouthfeel, this was an impressive effort and probably my favorite sip of the night.
Champagne Bruno Paillard 2009 Assemblage ($90)
Comprised of equal amounts of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it spent 7 years on the lees and another 18 months in bottle before being released. With a very low dosage of 5 grams/liter, the freshness and vivacity was amazing. Taut acidity with a creamy mouthfeel, it offered up spice notes, green pear, citrus, and toasted hazelnuts. And a finish that went on and on.
This was my first foray into the portfolio of Bruno Paillard Champagne and wow, what an education and a treat! I can’t wait for the opportunity to share these with other champagne lovers. Cheers for now.