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Bruno Paillard (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
For all you dreamers out there, consider the case of Bruno Paillard. Born in Reims in 1953 and working as a Champagne broker, he sought to establish his own Champagne house. But there had not been a new company opened in Champagne for more than a century. Certainly he had to realize that this could never happen. How could he acquire grapes, for example?
Thankfully, Paillard was stubborn enough to pursue his goal - even going to the point of selling his old MK2 Jaguar in 1981, in order to raise enough capital to start his company. Today, Champagne Bruno Paillard, located on the prestigious Avenue de Champagne in Reims, is a thriving company, one that has remained small (45,000 cases per year) to maintain its high levels of quality.
Paillard was in Chicago recently as part of a national tour for his importer, Vintus. I took a few minutes to speak with him and of course, try his wines. He is a modest man, but also a proud one, as he took the time to explain the errors in the brochure about his wines. These are very particular products and he wanted to make certain that I knew the source of his grapes for these wonderful products. For example, his Blanc de Blancs is now produced exclusively from Grand Cru vineyards, whereas in previous years, this wine also included grapes from Premier Cru sites as well. This is obviously a source of great pride as well to Bruno and he wanted to make sure I knew about it!
Here are notes on four cuvées he tasted out in Chicago:
NV Brut Premiere Cuvée
A blend of 22% Pinot Meunier, 33% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir, made exclusively from juice from the first pressing. Dried pear, quince and biscuit aromas. Medium-bodied with a clean, round finish with very good acidity. Quite tasty- enjoy over the next 3-5 years. (Suggested retail of $40)
NV Brut Rosé Premiere Cuvée
Made primarily from Pinot Noir (85%) with the remainder Chardonnay. Pale salmon color; aromas of pear and strawberry. Clean, elegant finish, very good acidity and complexity. Enjoy over the next 3-5 years. ($50)
NV Blanc de Blancs Réserve Privée Grand Cru
Dried lemon peel and yellow flower aromas; medium-full with excellent concentration; precise acidity and a long, long finish with a distinct minerality. Quite complex; lovely richness on the palate with beautiful finesse. Enjoy over the the next 5-7 years. Outstanding ($70)
1999 Brut Millésime Assemblage
Featuring an artist label, this is a blend of 42% Pinot Noir, 29% Chardonnay and 29% Pinot Meunier. Exotic, complex aromas - hints of juniper (!) and marzipan along with a touch of gingerbread. Nicely balanced with very good concentration and ripeness. Good length in the finish with good acidity. Bruno told me that in 1999, the grapes achieved excellent ripeness, however the acidity is lower than in a great vintage, such as 1996, which means that this 1999 will mature at a quicker pace. Enjoy over the next 5-7 years. ($80)
Congratulations to Bruno Paillard for realizing his dream and continuing to craft some of the most elegantly-styled Champagnes in the market today. Like the man himself, these wines are very classy!