Bruno Paillard is a big name in Champagne, that of one of the most respected boutique houses, and that of a key personality: Bruno Paillard, Chairman of Lanson-BCC, the second-largest champagne group of the region. Based in its modern building in Reims, this young maison is Paillard’s baby, his way of best expressing his idea of champagne. He follows all the precepts that are also implemented at Lanson-BCC to properly making champagne, like the use of only the cuvée, and adequate aging and rest after disgorgement. But here terroir takes a greater relevance, with an extra focus of the crus used and the viticultural practices applied, for champagnes of great quality and taste.
Bruno Paillard was born in Reims in 1953. Coming from a lineage of grape brokers and growers dating back to 1704, he followed the family tradition starting as a broker in 1975. This way, he acquired deep and extensive knowledge of Champagne and champagne. A few years later, he followed its overwhelming desire to create his champagne, one that would go beyond what existed in terms of purity and elegance. In 1981, at just 27, with no vineyards, no money, but a strong will, he sold his old Jaguar that had become a collector item to get the capital to found his own house.
1994 was a turning point, as he enriched the grapes supplies–until then entirely sourced from third parties–with his own, purchasing his first vineyard: 3 ha in Oger in the Côte des Blancs. Over the time he has continued his strategy of direct control on the supplies, expanding his vineyards in other beautiful terroirs of Champagne, of which many are grands crus. In 2007, Bruno Paillard’s daughter Alice joined him to continue together their adventure.
Vineyard and Production
The house owns 34 ha that cover half its needs–including 12 ha in grands crus : Oger and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger in the Côte des Blancs, land of chardonnay, and in Bouzy and Verzenay in the Montagne de Reims, land of pinot noir. They apply special care to get the most out of the soil and the best in the grapes, with a focus on plowing to encourage the development of root systems to extract the chalky minerality of Champagne, and short pruning to direct nutrients to the roots rather than the leaves. The rest of the grapes are still purchased to the same independent vine-growing families since the beginnings. Some vinifications are carried out in stainless steel vats, some other in oak barrels. The champagnes mature in the cellars for an average of three years for the non-vintages and between eight and 12 years for the vintages, to account for the extra brut dosage they receive to respect the authenticity of the wines. Resting after disgorgement is a minimum of three months, often more, before release, and they indicate the actual disgorgement date on every single bottle. Production is half-a-million bottles per year.
Bruno Paillard champagnes carry a great combination of elegance and complexity, but not heaviness, with remarkable purity, a perceptible but not overwhelming freshness, and very tiny bubbles for a silky texture. I am a great fan of Bruno Paillard’s wines: very refined, but still carrying extra taste.
The house stresses the concept of multi-vintage, nobler than non-vintage. It is also sustained by the fact that they include large amounts of reserve wines, of many different years, some as old as 1985. The flagship Permière Cuvée is made of the three grapes varieties from over 30 crus. With 20% of the wines fermented in barrels, 50% of reserve wines, a low dosage of 6 g/l, and three years of aging before disgorgement, it stands out among BSAs. But my favorite cuvées are Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru, and Rosé Permière Cuvée, for me one of the very best in this category and a real pleasure to drink, and drink, and drink again. The range also includes vintages, and the prestige cuvée N.P.U.–Nec Plus Ultra, also vintage, which is made only with grands crus, is entirely fermented in oak, and aged on lees for at least 10 years. In 2018, they released their brut nature champagne dubbed Dosage : Zéro. This new cuvée is the result of years of trials and errors, guided by the vision to make champagne with absolutely no added sugar (after disgorgement), but without compromising its power of seduction. The elaboration of this champagne is very complex–it even includes some N.P.U. in it–and carries the work and experience in champagne making of a life, that of Mr. Paillard.