It wasn’t until the 2000 vintage of his Nec Plus Ultra cuvée that Bruno Paillard started to realise a dream he had from the 1980s, namely making a zero dosage cuvée. His first experiments had ended up producing ‘aggressive’ Champagnes and he dropped the idea until he decided not to release this cuvée from the 2000 vintage and instead use it as reserve wine for the Dosage Zero project. Anne Krebiehl MW met Paillard to get the full story and to taste this extraordinary cuvée.
Almost half of Bruno Paillard Dosage Zero NV is Pinot Meunier, the rest is made up of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir but what the exact assemblage is, Paillard is not saying.
Bruno Paillard always wanted to return to the idea of Dosage Zero. He had experimented with the idea in the early 1980s when he set up his Champagne house from scratch. Serendipitous circumstances then triggered the idea of creating this new cuvée which he loves to call ‘DZ’.
All of Bruno Paillard’s Champagnes are already extra brut, so why did he feel the need to create dosage zero on top of that?
“Sugar can also help reveal some of the characters of a wine, a bit like salt, so I am not against sugar,” he says, “but I think the less the better, because for me, the truth is that Champagne stands on two feet: One, the northerly climate, and two, its chalky subsoil. These for me are the great assets of Champagne.”
“If you want to express the truth of this terroir you will want to try and do that without adding anything else than what the plant will bring you from the subsoil. This is why I have always practised low dosage.”
But he cites change: “Global warming, whether we like it or not, is a fact. It changes the ripeness of the grapes and gives us a little more roundness,” he says. “Then, even though I had chosen my growers carefully, today I own 34.4ha which cover 70% of my grape needs. I can grow them my way, and I can choose the picking date. Then I have also been able to constitute a collection of outstanding reserve wines, some of them are réserves perpetuelles which go back to 1985.”
Paillard says his first experiments with zero dosage were classic brut Champagnes which had been given an extra year on lees and were disgorged without dosage. He gave that up “pretty quickly” as the wines “were a little aggressive.” But he also confesses: “I always had in mind to come back to Dosage Zéro, in a different manner from what I did in the early 1980s.”
It was the 2000 vintage of his prestige cuvée N.P.U, or Nec Plus Ultra, which triggered the DZ. He had bottled this prestige cuvée from the 2000 vintage according to his seven paradigms:
- only great vintages,
- only Grand Cru,
- only the first pressing,
- only barrel fermented
- long maturation before tirage
- followed by ten years on lees,
- with extra brut dosage and a further year of bottle age before release
“However, I decided I would not release it. I decided to open the bottles and turn them into a very specific reserve wines which would be the occasion for me to start this new project,” he says. As an N.P.U. the 2000 vintage was not quite up to the standard of his 2002, or rather the exacting standards of Paillard himself.
“This was, as we say in French, ‘un mal pour un bien’ [a blessing in disguise] something that turned out to be a very good opportunity,” Paillard says. “So while I had been thinking about DZ for many years I thought this might be what I’m missing.”
The new DZ, Paillard declares, is “A completely new architecture of wine. First of all it has more than 50% of reserve wines, part of which are the re-opened, well-matured 2000 N.P.U. The composition of the cuvée also involves a majority of barrel-fermented wines, which makes them develop more roundness. Almost half of the composition is Pinot Meunier.”
Only about a fifth of the assemblage of his Première Cuvée is Pinot Meunier so this is a departure. “Pinot Meunier has a little more largesse, it becomes rounder faster than Chardonnay and Pinot Noir,” he explains. “But we also wanted to make this affordable: it was on the lees for four years with a further six months post-disgorgement before release.”
He will not reveal the exact assemblage but says that Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are also in the wine.
A subtle nose with an almost floral perfume hovering above red apple. The creamy but fresh palate strengthens this notion of subtlety, shimmering with Golden Delicious and salty but rich notes of crumble. It surprises with a wonderful softness, a sense of pillowy brioche. There is an ease, a happy and convincing alignment of subtle fruit, creamy depth and soft texture. It is also dangerously moreish.
Bruno Paillard Dosage Zero NV has an RRP is £49.80 and distribution is via Bibendum