Bruno Paillard releases sugar-free Champagne 30 years after his first attempt
Bruno Paillard says he has learnt from past mistakes and, 30 years since his first attempt, unveiled a sugarless Champagne in London yesterday that is neither too aggressive nor excessively acidic.
Called D:Z, which stands for dosage zero, referring of course to the complete absence of sugar in the dosage, the brut nature fizz is not his first bone-dry Champagne, and comes more than 30 years after his inaugural attempt – which he told db he didn’t like.
Speaking at the launch of the Maison Bruno Paillard D:Z at Hide restaurant in Piccadilly, he admitted that he had failed with his first brut nature Champagne, unveiled over 30 years ago, not long after he launched the ‘house’ in 1981.
“I went too quickly in the 80s with the dosage zero,” he said.
Continuing, he recorded, “It lasted just a few months and it was just my Première Cuvée with a bit more age and no dosage; I did not have the right raw material in those days, and, although I sold it, I did not like it.”
In contrast, the current release has been “tailor-made” for a bone-dry style, and Paillard said that he has compensated for a lack of sugar with a long maturation and a high percentage of reserve wines, as well as a greater proportion of the fruitier Pinot Meunier grape, along with other tweaks, such as barrel fermentation to bring added texture to the fizz.
Unlike the Louis Roederer Brut Nature, which he said was a benchmark for the Champagne style, Bruno Pailllard has not lowered the pressure of the fizz – which Roederer cellarmaster Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon did to “soften” his zero-dosage Champagne.
While the majority of Champagne is sold with six bar pressure, Roederer’s Brut Nature comes with around 4.5 bar.
Paillard also said that he had been able to make a brut nature Champagne today due to global warming and an expanded estate, with 75% of the grapes used for the D:Z coming from Paillard-owned vineyards.
Stressing the importance of the latter point, he said, “This means we can dictate the date of harvest” – ensuring that Paillard can have “more mature grapes” for his sugarless Champagne. It also allows Paillard to “practice our own growing methods, which are organic.”
(Although his daughter Alice Paillard later told db that the property, which amounts to 34.4ha, spread over 100 parcels, and covering 14 villages, is not certified organic, and never will be, because she would rather use a chemical treatment for mildew than copper, which builds up in the soil).
Drawing a conclusion to the comparisons with his past sugar-free Champagne, Paillard said that D:Z had not repeated the mistakes of 35 years ago, but was a cuvée created from scratch to be a zero dosage Champagne that is not aggressive.
“We have more reserve wines, more Meunier, and more mature grapes, which are all invited to contribute to the D:Z project,” he said.
He also said that part of the impetus to make a second attempt at sugarless Champagne came from another mistake: his decision not to release his NPU prestige cuvée from the 2000 vintage, even though he had bottled the wine.
Indeed, having decided it wasn’t of the quality needed for his top expression, he returned the aged fizz to tank, giving him “the little spice” needed for a brut nature.
“I made lots of tests, but when I decided not to release NPU 2000, that gave me what I needed, a very special reserve wine, which in fact has gone through a third fermentation, and this is what I needed to make the difference: although it means that I have to set aside a little bit of NPU to make the D:Z of the future.”
When asked what motivated him to try and create an appealing sugarless Champagne, Paillard said that it was driven by his urge to express the character of his vineyards as purely as possible.
“I enjoy a glass of Champagne with no sugar at all that is enjoyable and delivers the full chalky minerality of our vineyard without being annoying,” he said, explaining that by “annoying” he means neither too aggressive nor acidic.
When asked if he is a bit late to launch a brut nature, he commented. “I was too early in the 80s, and maybe too late today, but what is important is to come with the right stuff.”
Then, on further reflection, he added, “Of course I’m too late, I started in 1981, not 1781.”
BP D:Z key points
• 75% of grapes for D:Z come from Bruno Paillard’s vineyards
• The brut nature Champagne has “over 50%” reserve wine
• It uses “over 50%” of wine that has been fermented in barriques (used oak source from Graves).
• The first release uses a 2013 base vintage.
• The wine was disgorged January 2018, after 4-years ageing on the lees
• Paillard promised that no bottle of D:Z would be released before 42 months ageing, with a minimum of 36 months on the lees.
• 1,500 to 2,000 cases will be produced of D:Z annually
• Hedonism will list the wine from tomorrow at £49.80