Paillard pushes for new disgorgement rule

Bruno Paillard is on a mission to convince his fellow Champagne houses to agree to a minimum 3-month period between disgorgement and release.

Bruno Paillard at a disgorgement masterclass yesterday, held at the Antique Wine Company in London

Bruno Paillard at a disgorgement masterclass yesterday, held at the Antique Wine Company in London

A vocal advocate of later disgorgement and, in particular, of greater transparency about disgorgement dates, Paillard is co-chair of the quality commission which forms part of the Champagne region’s “Project 2030”.

Officially launched at the end of last year, this project represents a cooperative effort by growers and houses to improve the long-term health of the Champagne business.

At present, Champagne producers are only required to hold back their product for 15 months once it has been bottled, with no regulations to govern how much of that time elapses after disgorgement.

For his own eponymous brand, which he established in 1981, Paillard insists on a minimum of six months between disgorgement and release. Even the non-vintage Bruno Paillard Brut Première Cuvée, which accounts for around 60% of the house’s production, will spend at least 42 months in bottle before release. This period includes a minimum of 36 months on its lees, another element of Champagne production which Paillard is keen to see extended.

However, he acknowledged the impracticality of trying to impose such a delay on many of the larger Champagne houses. “I don’t think it would be realistic to oblige everybody to do what we do,” he admitted.

“The big groups here have to achieve results more quickly, they would need to sell at a certain level of price and it is more complicated with big volumes – some producers would not survive. I cannot impose the rules on others that I impose on myself.”

Despite this commercial understanding, Paillard spoke vehemently about the importance of allowing Champagne to recuperate after the disgorgement process. “Cellar workers call it ‘l’operation’,” he remarked. “It is surgery: we open it up, we take something out and we close it again. The bottle needs to rest afterwards.”

For all the challenge of winning over the larger houses which dominate the region’s production, Paillard indicated that, aided by particularly enthusiastic support from Champagne’s cellar masters, his proposal appears to be making progress.

“We have managed to achieve a consensus to make it mandatory to have at least three months rest after disgorgement,” he reported, although noted that no vote had yet taken place and any regulation would not be implemented until 2030.

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