Bruno Paillard Champagne Première Cuvée MV
Maison Bruno Paillard is an independent, family-owned Champagne house based in Reims, founded only in 1981, with its first vintage in 1985. At the time this was the first new Champagne House to be created in over a century.
Bruno Paillard was just 27 years old when he set it up. Now his daughter Alice runs the company with him. The House owns 34 ha of vineyards that provide 70% of the grapes required, a high proportion in Champagne. Most of their vineyards are in northern Champagne, on the Côtes de Blanc and the Montagne de Reims. The exception to this is at Les Riceys, in the south near Troyes in the Aube. Also, 12 ha of these vineyards are from Grand Cru rated villages, again a high proportion. They also work sustainably with organic principles.
Bruno Paillard’s CV
Bruno Paillard himself is also a great ambassador for Champagne. Until this year he worked with the CIVC, Champagnes ruling body. He is also Chairman of the Lanson-BCC Group. Hence by extension, this covers Champagne from Philiponnat, Boizel, Chanoine Frères, Besserat de Bellefon, Alexander Bonnet, and de Venoge. That’s some CV.
As is usual in Champagne, it’s the NV that represents the House style. Like Krug, Bruno Paillard prefers to refer to theirs as a multi-vintage (MV). Première Cuvée is typical in that it’s an assemblage to achieve consistency of style despite Champagne’s fickle climate. In other words, it’s a blend of 35 separate vineyards, all three grape varieties, and reserve wines from previous vintages.
Première Cuvée only uses juice from the first grape pressing. That’s 500ml per kilo of grapes and is always the best quality. The remaining press wine is sold off. It also contains 20% barrel-fermented wine. The malolactic fermentation is also allowed, so softening the acidity. The grape proportions are 45% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay and 22% Pinot Meunier.
Also, there is a high proportion of Reserve Wines in the blend, usually around 35%. In challenging vintages that can rise to 50%. Even their reserve wines are unusual. They are themselves blends; of wines from the previous year plus every year back to 1985. In some ways, this resembles a solera system to achieve quality and consistency regardless of the harvest conditions each year.
Première Cuvée matures for three years in the bottle on the lees, which is twice Champagne’s minimum legal requirement. That means far more complexity in the wine from sitting on its lees plus small bubbles. As is usual these days, Gyropalettes are used for riddling, though Magnums and larger bottle sizes are still hand-turned. After disgorgement and dosage, there is a further maturation in bottle before release. A minimum of six months integrates the wine fully and helps it recover its poise.
I particularly like that Bruno Paillard is a pioneer in showing the disgorgement date on the back label. In my opinion, this practice should be mandatory for all Champagne. This example says that was in June 2017. Consequently, it had 14 months convalescence in the bottle to the time of opening.
What to expect
All Bruno Paillard Champagnes are Extra-Brut, so there is a dosage, but always less than 6g/l. The reason is to express minerality and freshness, and a higher dose of sugar would mask this.
Poured from a distinctively shaped bottle, it’s a light golden colour, with tiny bubbles and a lazy bubble stream. There are aromas of lemon sherbet, white blossom and a little pastry from the lees ageing. The palate is tense and taught, and reprises the lemon sherbet overlaying a chalky backbone. Some hints of marzipan and hazelnut appear on the finish. A silky texture, balance and elegance complete a vivacious package. It all still feels remarkably young. I imagine that if kept longer it will develop and fill out. Then, nuts and ginger spice will come to the fore. It’s then that the disgorgement date becomes helpful, as an indicator of the wines bottle age hence flavour maturity.
This Champagne is particularly food-friendly, coming into its own with shellfish, crab and lobster. Cheeses such as Brie de Meaux, Chaorce, Brillat-Savarin and Camembert also work particularly well. That makes Première Cuvée an easy recommendation!
You’ll never see this wine discounted or stocked in a supermarket. So check out specialist wine merchants or good restaurant wine lists. Bruno Paillard has taken a different route to most rival Champagne Houses in nearly every respect. That’s as a businessman, winemaker and blender. The result is Champagne of distinction and individuality.
Champagne Bruno Paillard
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