10 things I learnt at a recent tasting with Bruno Paillard in London (which Laura was very disappointed to miss, she does so like her Champagne fix):
- He does make some really very nice Champagnes, with the emphasis on elegance, purity and complexity. Like many winemakers he also likes his wine to express minerality but I found that harder to pin down……
- His Champagnes are only made from the first pressings of the grapes and the Première Cuvée is typically a blend of 45% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay and 22% Pinot Meunier.
- The current release of Champagne Bruno Paillard Brut Première Cuvée, disgorged in March 2013, has delicate, white flower aromas. It is very fresh tasting and has that tell-tale sign of so many fine wines in that it whispers rather than shouts.
- More mature bottles of the Première Cuvée naturally gain complexity with bottle age, with the Pinot Noir characters gradually becoming more dominant. The wines retain the house elegance but take on extra intensity of flavour and gingernut notes.
- M Paillard insists that his Champagnes should spend at least 3 years on the lees after the second fermentation and should then be rested for at least 6 months after disgorgement. This is an expensive and uncompromising approach, but one that is essential if one is aiming for the highest quality Champagnes.
- A key moment in the Champagne process is called disgorgement, when the sediment is removed. The local workers call this part of the process “l’operation” which is the French word for surgery. And then the time the Champagne spends resting afterwards and before shipping is called “convalescence”. I like that.
- M Paillard is a strong believer in putting the date of disgorgement on the bottle. That way, the drinker knows when even a non-vintage Champagne (or multi-vintage, as M Paillard likes to call it) has been bottled. This is especially helpful if the Champagne, like Bruno Paillard, improves with age (I mean the Champagne, but it may well be true of the owner too!).
- Champagne Bruno Paillard is made in a relatively dry style (never more than 6gms/l of dosage, for the technically minded). This tends to emphasise the acidity when young but ensures extended freshness as the Champagne matures. This level of dryness only works if the original grapes are of the highest quality, there is extended ageing on the lees and the maker has access to some good reserve wines.
- M Paillard himself is not a great believer in zero-dosage Champagnes and thinks that the category has been high jacked by some less quality-orientated producers. In his opinion, the better zero-dosage Champagnes are best drunk at about 10 years old.
- I would really like to own my own Champagne house……
Wines available through Bibendum.