Bruno Paillard, Champagne Brut Premiere Cuvée, n.v.
We visited Champagne in May, 2018. It was a challenging week for a visit. It was the anniversary of Victory Day and much of the country was shut down. I had struggled to schedule visits ahead of the trip, even with help from local importer Eldad Levy, and wound up sending desperation emails to wineries. Only one answered. Alice Paillard invited me for a tour with a group of Italian restaurateurs. Seems Alice does everything at this family firm from winemaking to marketing. At the end of the visit, she asked me why I asked for a visit, since the wines are not imported to Israel. I answered that I read about them in Peter Liem's great book and she was the only one who replied.
I admit I almost despaired when I arrived at the premises. Bruno Paillard was founded in the late 80's, and unlike the old houses in Reims and Epernay, they own no old cellars dug deep into the caves beneath Reims, so the wines are made and matured in what looks like an industrial park. The wines themselves, though, are anything but industrial. They are crafted with the individuality, care, delicacy and verve of a grower champagne.
They take great pride in their non-vintage cuvée which is made, as you would expect from a negociant-grower, from dozens of plots, most of which the firm actually owns. They are among the few to list an easily readable disgorgement date on the back label and urge their customers to age the wines. My bottle was disgorged in March 2018 and obviously I laid it down for a couple of years.
This is a wine of great vitality and verve on the palate, the yeasty character of the autolysis very subtle and in the background. In the foreground are direct fruit and mineral flavors, locked in a fairly complex lattice, and a delicious, long, saline aftertaste riding on the wave of marvelous acidity. It's blend of all three Champagne grapes - Pinot Noir (45%), Chardonnay (33%) and Pinot Meunier (22%) - but I think the Chardonnay is dominant on the nose, providing aromas of chalk and toasted bread. It may not have the depth of a vintage Champagne, but it is an excellent non-vintage, one of the tastiest and clearest I've drunk, and the complexity and texture might fool me in a blind tasting. Also, it gains more and more weight and presence in time. Seriously, the last glass could well have been a vintage Champagne.