Bruno Paillard, who famously set up his own Champagne house in 1981, is a force of nature. But so is his daughter Alice, who is now running the show. Presenting the new Blanc de Noirs to a group of high end journalists (and me) in the fancy Aubrey restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental, she was in her element.
‘It is an important moment for us to share a new wine,’ she began. ‘Pinot Noir is a very noble and fragile grape, and it has always been important to us. Our flagship wine is composed of a majority of Pinot Noir. It is just 33% Chardonnay. We like Pinot Noir for its great finesse. There are already beautiful Blanc de Noirs in Champagne, but often we know them from the southern side of the mountain. But this was not the idea behind this Blanc de Noir.’
‘We are approaching this with a different proposition. First, it is multi-vintage. It’s a way to keep the wine forever with us. Vintage is fun but it is not so loyal.’
This debut release is the first 5000 bottles, with 12.5% of reserve wine in the blend, and the base the 2018 vintage. The reserve will build up, and represent more of the blend in the future. ‘We are at the first steps,’ she says. It is extra brut, with 3 g/l dosage. The reserve began with 2015 and 2016 in stainless steel. The wine was bottled in June/July 2019 and then disgorged in January 2023.
‘We decided to make this Grand Cru,’ says Alice. ‘You know when you do this that it will remain a little jewel. You close the door to a big increase in production.’ The big idea behind this wine was the location of the vineyards, though. ‘We wanted to put the northern terroirs of the Reims mountain on the map. It is dominated by Verzy, Verzenay and Mailly. Expressions of the grape that are rare as the dominant character.’ There’s also one-third Bouzy Grand Cru. The aim, she says, is to show the character of Pinot Noir with the delicacy of the northern Grand Crus.
Like her father, when it comes to base wines Alice tastes blind and just smells the wine. ‘It’s the way to stay free,’ she says. She began working at the house in 2007 and very progressively got involved with decision making. Since 2018 she has been responsible for the blend, although her father did come back to assist in 2020 during lockdown. She had three small children aged 3, 6 and 8 at home, so needed a hand. ‘It was really tough!’
Champagne Bruno Paillard Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru MV France
This is fresh and citrussy on the nose with grapefruit and a hint of white pepper. Linear and pure on the palate with a hint of pear and yellow plum, and a nice lemony drive. Just a hint of cherry. Pristine and with a hint of chalkiness, and then some saline notes on the finish, as well as a twist of pink grapefruit. 94/100
Other Paillard Champagnes recently tasted:
Champagne Bruno Paillard Première Cuvée MV France
Disgorged June 2021. More than 30 crus from 106 parcels, aged at least 36 months on lees. Exclusively first pressing, Pinot Noir (45%), Chardonnay (33%) and Pinot Meunier (22%), part of which (20%) was fermented in barrel. Reserve wines a blend of 25 vintages back to 1985, and this makes up to 50% of the final blend. Dosage is below 6 g/litre. This shows good concentration of citrus fruit with some fine toasty hints, and lovely layers of lemon, pear and white peach fruit, backed up by a chalky acid line. This is a really complete, complex non-vintage blend with great balance. 92/100
Champagne Bruno Paillard Rosé Première Cuvée MV France
12% alcohol. Disgorged January 2022. This has a lovely saline twist to the pear, apple and mandarin fruit with some red cherry and cranberry. There’s fine spiciness here with lovely acidity, and a tapering saline finish. This has energy and drive with nice brightness and concentration. 92/100
Champagne Bruno Paillard Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru MV France
From 36 plots in Oger and Mesnil-sur-Oger, this spends a minimum of 48 months on lees, and this bottle was disgorged in June 2018. 12% alcohol. Pure and very precise with taut lemony fruit. Lovely acid line here with pristine, slightly chalky lemony notes and a subtle crystalline toasty edge. Amazing intensity here. 94/100
Paillard also own a Provence domaine and these wines are really impressive. Les Sarrins is located in the village of Saint Antonin du Var, near Lorgues, halfway between the foothills of The Alps and the Mediterranean. It’s a 100 hectare estate with 27 hectares of vines at an altitude of 150 to 220m. Soils are gravelly limestone from the tertiary era, with some clay. Since its acquisition in 1995 the vineyards have been farmed organically.
Château des Sarrins Blanc Secret 2021 Côtes de Provence, France
13.5% alcohol. From a 25 hectare vineyard owned by Bruno Paillard, this is mostly Rolle (Vermentino, until the Italians pulled a fast one with this name, disallowing others from using it). Lovely aromatics with refined white peach and citrus on the nose. There’s a real refinement here. The palate is delicate and expressive with lovely weight and balance, showing a slight creaminess as well as crystalline citrus fruit, a touch of canteloup melon and fine spices. This is serious stuff: a great example of Provence white. 94/100
Château des Sarrins Rosé Grande Cuvée 2022 Côtes de Provence, France
13% alcohol. This is from Bruno Paillards Provence estate, 40 km from the sea at an altitude of 150-180 m. He has 27 hectares here on clay/limestone soils. This wine is a blend of Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvedre. Expressive and bright with a nice citrus twist to the spice-framed cherry fruit. Lovely texture and weight but also good acidity, giving a sense of precision and finesse with crystalline purity. Fresh with a hint of salinity on the finish. 93/100
UK agent: Wanderlust Wine
See also: report on a visit to Champagne Bruno Paillard