For a Champagne house so in love with Pinot it is curious that it has taken 42 years for Champagne Bruno Paillard to release a new Blanc de Noirs since its first one way back in 1981. “You have to start somewhere'” Alice Paillard tells Peter Dean, as she explains why she eschewed opulence and sweetness in the Bruno Paillard Blanc de Noirs MV and opted instead for refinement with a very low dosage – a true sommelier’s cuvée if ever there was one.
“The idea of this Blanc des Noirs is to show how we really love the North Pinot on chalky soil,” says Alice Paillard about the new Champagne Bruno Paillard Blanc de Noirs
The launch of a new cuvée from Champagne Bruno Paillard is always a special occasion and so it has proved again with the debut release of its first ever Blanc de Noirs MV, the Champagne Bruno Paillard Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru MV XB to give it its full, unexpurgated title. Since 1981 this independent, family-owned House has wowed aficionados and sommeliers alike with its particular style of Champagne which can be broadly characterised as: always being Extra Brut; only using first-pressed juice; and having a long ageing post-disgorgement.
“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,” was how Bruno Paillard put it five years ago when talking to the Buyer about the launch of its Dosage Zero project.
Today it is daughter Alice who is in the driving seat for the tasting and she picks up the point about low dosage which, in the case of the new Multi-Vintage Blanc des Noirs, is below 3 g/l, which is very low compared to most BdN.
“One gram more would have been easier, for sure, but the wine would have been more usual,” Alice explains, “more like a classic Blanc des Noirs in my opinion.”
And Paillard’s house style dictates that its wines should always stand out from the crowd. But why make the dosage so low, apart from obviously conforming to style?
“I chose 3 g/l to maybe protect it from itself, to ensure it has more intensity and density rather than being outgoing. The wine is untypical – I struggle to put it into words – but it is intense, very elegant, very refined, that’s what I would like to capture with our Blanc des Noirs. I’m not interested with ‘big style Pinot’, showing off – but you have to start somewhere right?”
The love of the North
Although this is Bruno Paillard’s first Blanc des Noirs Multi-Vintage to be released (the BdN in 1981 was a vintage), Paillard has made two vintage BdNs that are currently ageing in the cellar – 2015 and 2016 vintages – both of which are part of the blend in this new Multi-Vintage cuvée. The base wine which forms the main part of the blend, incidentally, is from the 2018 vintage.
“The first edition, an MV, is not about a balance between the North and South of the mountain, it is clearly North mountain,” continues Alice, “the vast majority – of course it is Grand Cru Montagne de Reims – is the way we like to show Pinot in its precision, in its depth, in its intensity, but also very contained. It’s not about opulence.”
“The idea of this Blanc des Noirs is to show how we really love the North Pinot on chalky soil.”
Paillard confesses to not having tasted many Blanc des Noirs in her time, and that includes this new MV, which she hasn’t sampled much at all. When we taste the wine together she seems to get lost in her thoughts. That, plus a wave of nostalgia that sweeps over her. I picture Anton Ego, the wine critic in Ratatouille who suddenly gets swept back to a childhood memory when he samples Remy’s eponymous dish.
“Clearly the wine has a bit of a childhood souvenir of taste and aromatics,” she says, “when you grow as a child in Champagne what grows in the garden is redcurrants, raspberries, rhubarb, the smells… it’s clearly how I grew up and how my father did before me – everywhere is this explosion of acidity in a noble manner.”
“It’s a different landscape than sweetness and love of wild forest,” she continues, alluding again to the Pinot styles she’s trying to avoid.
“Here I find nutmeg, cacao powder, citrus pepper like Timut – spiciness and sensation of citrus at the same time – and after comes the velvety flowers a bit deeper… it’s just starting to open but then it’s a baby – it requires time.”
The launch of the new Bruno Paillard Blanc de Noirs arrives in the UK soon after the appointment of Wanderlust Wines as its sole UK distributor, Paillard having made the decision to pull out of Bibendum. Paillard and Wanderlust MD Richard Ellison cite a “strongly aligned ethos” and mutual brand values (independence, entrepreneurial spirit and the like) as some of the drivers behind the move.
Wanderlust will start selling a wider range of Paillard’s Champagnes than we’ve seen before in the UK – such as the 3-year disgorged Cuvée ’72 – into both the on and off-trade, along with a range of wines from Château des Sarrins, the Provence-based estate that the Paillard family bought 30 years ago and whose wines have never been available before in the UK.
So how does the new Blanc de Noirs measure up to other ‘jewels in the crown’?
Champagne Bruno Paillard Première Cuvée MV XB
Signature wine of the house making up 60% of its output. Fruit from 30 crus with the first pressing of Pinot Noir (45%), Chardonnay (33%) and Meunier (22%), with up to 50% reserve wines made up of 25 vintages since 1985, 20% fermented in barrel. Ageing: 36 months on lees, followed by a minimum of 5 months post disgorgement (December 2022). Dosage: 5.5g/l. RRP £47.
Tasting notes: Platinum gold; energetic mousse developing into fine, lively bead; welcoming fruity nose with ripe yellow stone fruit, grapefruit, red berries and a touch of Sechuan pepper, flowers then appear. Balanced in the mouth, full, warm, welcoming and then fresh, crisp undercurrent of ripe Sicilian lemon, with almond, toasted bread. The long ageing adds richness without a hint of austerity, the Meunier also brings ripe, exotic fruit into the mix that gives perception of sweetness. The finish is not that long but crisp, fresh and dry with a twist of citrus.
Champagne Bruno Paillard Cuvée 72 MV XB
Pinot Noir (45%), Chardonnay (33%) and Meunier (22%), up to 50% reserve wines, 20% fermented in barrel. Ageing: 36 months on the lees, followed by 36 months post disgorgement (my tasting sample was July 2019). Dosage: 5.5g/l. RRP £65.
Tasting notes: Nice counterbalance here between the concentrated aromas and fine, delicacy of the palate. Medium gold; fine, small bubbles; secondary notes take centre stage (note the age of my sample) – grilled hazelnuts, an oxidative quality, cooked fruits, almond paste, viennoise, forest honey; in the mouth the wine feels drier, having absorbed some of that primary fruit, it is delicate with a firm, mineral-charged undercurrent; citrus-dominated, lime and satsuma are joined by flavours of sharp cranberry jelly and a bite of lime sorbet.
Champagne Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru MV XB
Chardonnay (100%), up to 50% reserve wines, 15 -20% fermented in barrel. Ageing: 48 months on lees, followed by a minimum of 12 months post disgorgemet (May 2022). Dosage: 5g/l. RRP: £70.
Tasting notes: Taut, precise, lemon fruit-charged Blanc de Blancs. Pale platinum gold; yellow grapefruit dominates the nose, white flowers, fresh wet chalk, a touch of toast and fresh nut. The wine is lean and lively in the mouth, lemon fruit, crisp pear and Braeburn apple. Ripe lift on the mineral finish which seems to last for ever.
Champagne Bruno Paillard Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru MV XB
Pinot Noir (100%), up to 50% reserve wines, 15 -20% fermented in barrel. Ageing: 36 months on lees, followed by a minimum of 6 months post disgorgement (November 2022). Dosage: 3g/l. RRP: £70. Released this autumn.
Tasting notes: Bright platinum gold with copper highlights, fine bead; at first there are alluring aromas of red berries – fresh raspberries, redcurrants, wild strawberries and rhubarb; pâte de framboises; then spice (Timut pepper), citrus, a hint of wet chalk, recently dried rose petals follow; the palate is a touch closed, with a tense, mineral-charged attack followed by chalky texture and more of a sense of structure; I picked up flavours of pink grapefruit, saline and a touch of Aspirin on the long finish. This is a truly distinctive Blanc de Noirs, quite unlike any I have tried before, it is gastronomic with the fruit taking a back seat. A sommelier’s wine if ever there was one. Needs more time, six months perhaps.
- Bruno Paillard is now distributed in the UK by Wanderlust Wine.