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Interview with Bruno Paillard

BestChampagne had the pleasure of interviewing Bruno Paillard, founder and President of the prestigious Champagne House BRUNO PAILLARD. A true pioneer, Bruno Paillard sought to create his own Champagne House in a region built on staunch tradition. Through a combination of his extensive knowledge of champagne and strong will of what he was looking to make, he went beyond what existed in terms of purity and elegance by refusing to compromise on quality. Whether it is the temperature and humidity controls created at his ground floor cellar, sustainable hand harvesting, minimal dosage, extensive aging or using gentle first pressing only for all of his champagnes, every step in the production of Bruno Paillard champagnes reflects his expertise and resoluteness. Bruno Paillard style exhibits an unsurpassed quality of remarkable purity and freshness.

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In 1981, at the age of 27, Bruno Paillard started his own Champagne House, the first new Champagne House in nearly a century.
BestChampagne: Bruno Paillard is one of the most recently established, great Champagne Houses. What was your vision when you founded the House? 
 
Bruno Paillard: I founded Bruno Paillard in 1981 with a clear vision: to produce wines of only the highest quality.
I founded Bruno Paillard in 1981 with a clear vision: to produce wines of only the highest quality.
I was working as a grape broker in Champagne for 6 years at the time, which is what my father had done, and it gave me a good understanding of champagne. It helped me understand the crus and where you find good grapes as well as the families and Houses in Champagne. I was able to determine the House’s levels of ambition and which were better at marketing; in some cases you find both in the same hat, which is nice. 
 
That was also a time when I had seen two big changes in the industry. One was that most families sold their Houses to very large groups.  This changed very much the approach to quality.  
The second was the emergence of mass marketing and sales in supermarkets, which drastically changed distribution. 
 
This resulted in the largest groups more or less, controlling the market. 
These two changes were something that frightened me at the time because the level of quality globally, I thought, did not reflect the true potential of champagne.  When you do not have champagne in your blood, like the founding families, you might be very good at marketing but would be more concerned with turnover and profits. Which is fine, I have nothing against that, but then you have the temptation to produce your wines more quickly, mature them more quickly and sell them where there is a mass market. i.e. supermarkets, whom themselves are looking for low prices. You are caught between two worlds of great quality and mass marketing. 
 
My vision when creating Bruno Paillard was to be sure that my wines would be only of the highest quality and that I would never sell one bottle in the supermarket.  If you want to stay consistent and maintain champagne as a luxury item, you should not find it in supermarkets, it should be of selective distribution.
If you want to maintain champagne as a luxury item, you should not find it in the supermarkets.
 
BC:  You stress the importance of having access to the best grapes to produce quality champagne. Aren’t all grapes good in Champagne?
 
BP: Yes, all grapes in Champagne are good but its like people in the street: every human being is equal but some may be granted with more beauty, talent, etc. and this is something you cannot change. I choose the best grapes and work with the best growers. It is not only about selecting the best grapes, it is also important to maintain a high quality process. Each step in the process has to be precise: using only first grape pressings, maturing the grapes a very long time, and using a very low dosage. 
 
We produce only Extra-Brut champagnes, where the maximum amount of sugar to be added is 6 grams per liter, which we practice for the Brut and Rosé.
 
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Bruno Paillard owns 32 hectares of land with almost half in Grand Crus villages. This is remarkable considering that less than 6% of all Champagne villages are Grand Crus.
Our Blanc de Blancs Grand Crus is 5 grams, our Vintages are 5 grams and our Bruno Paillard N.P.U. (Nec Plus Ultra) is 4 grams.  
To make an Extra-Brut, you need a very long maturation.  There have been some Extra-Bruts on the market that were released far too young and they taste too aggressive, which is disappointing. 
 
We mature our wines three times longer than required by Champagne regulations.  For our Brut Premiere Cuvée, we age it for three years on the lees before disgorgement when the rules ask for 15 months, and we age it an additional six months after disgorgement. For our Vintage Cuvée, we are now releasing the 2004, when the rules ask for three years minimum aging.
 
BC: How would you describe to someone who is not a champagne expert what the style is of Bruno Paillard champagnes?
 
BP:  From the Brut Premiere Cuvée to the most expensive, Bruno Paillard N.P.U., Champagne Bruno Paillard delivers a fantastic combination of elegance, freshness and complexity. I do not want to choose between elegance and complexity; I want the best of what my terroirs can deliver. My vineyards are in some of the finest locations.
Champagne Bruno Paillard delivers a fantastic combination of elegance, freshness and complexity.
My champagnes deliver more minerality and purity. They have much less sugar then any other of some of the great names and are matured for a very long time to compensate for the lack of sugar because otherwise it could be quite aggressive. My champagnes deliver an experience of exceptional freshness because of the way we produce our wines. 
[Our champagnes] have much less sugar then any other of some of the great names and are matured for a very long time to compensate
BC: In light of the current crisis, which champagne markets are the most interesting for the industry and for your House?
 
BP: The traditional European markets no longer offer the most opportunities for growth so every body is looking for newer markets. The United States and Asia are where a lot of marketing efforts are taking place. 
 
Having said that, the traditional European markets are still very interesting to us because as the more people become familiar with champagne, the more they tend to prefer my style of champagne. 
 
Bruno Paillard is very much a connoisseur’s champagne and even if the market is mature, you still have people who want to learn more about high quality champagnes.
We produce only between 400-500,000 bottles per year and we supply more then four hundred Michelin star restaurants, which we are quite proud of.
Distribution remains extremely difficult because you have big groups with large, powerful networks.  What we need to do is find importers who are motivated by top quality wines in each country.  
 
 
BC: Monsieur Paillard, what is champagne to you?
 
BP:  Champagne is my passion. It is my life; I was born here and I will be buried here.   
 
BC: Do you drink champagne every day?
 
BP: Of course!
 
Follow the link to discover BRUNO PAILLARD champagnes: http://www.bestchampagne.co/houses/bruno-paillard
 
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