Portrait of Antoine Paillard

VISIT AND TASTING AT CHAMPAGNE PIERRE PAILLARD

The Pierre Paillard estate is in keeping with the tradition of the most prestigious champagne terroirs with a supplement of soul and heart: sustainable practices, cultivated here with conviction, love and good farmer sense. On their great terroirs of Bouzy, Antoine, his brother Quentin and their father Benoît, have done much more than prove their worth: they have founded a school of thought. Together, the three winegrowers craft champagnes with a unique texture and ineffable charm. Located exclusively on the slopes of Bouzy in the historic heart of Champagne, we met with Antoine, a passionate winegrower who has his heart set on creating wines in harmony with his terroir. A unique opportunity to understand the philosophy and the winemaking process of the estate as well as to discover a bit more the identity cuvées.

200 years of know-how and transmission

In the great Champagne wine families, the transmission signification is well known. Located on one of the most beautiful lands of Champagne, the Antoine Paillard Domain traces its furrows without weakening. The new generations did not just follow the track of the elders, but together took things in hand with determination. Benoît – the father – and  Quentin – the brother – on the commercial side, Antoine on the wine part with his brother and the day-to-day business management in addition of the export… Champagne Pierre Paillard is a family matter above everything. It has been 8 generations that the estate exists. Today, Benoît, Quentin and Antoine look after 11 hectares of vines exclusively on the terroir of Bouzy sharing the believe that experience, creativity and patience are essential to craft great wine. Together, the three men use their complementarity to create the cuvées of the estate. At Champagne Pierre Paillard, it is very important that each generation makes its contribution, brings its personal touch – a wish reflecting the true will to transmit. The history of the estate is therefore in keeping with this perennial vision to transmit, to make sure to bring something and thus to ensure continuity. Antoine for example, explains that everything he learned from the DNA of the House was transmitted through the previous generation.

The Paillard family benefits from an experience of more than 200 years on the terroir of Bouzy ; 8 generations inspired by their land and the traditions initiating the everyday work of today and the modernity of the estate. Originally, working as shepherds then innkeeper-carter and rector of school, it is only in 1768 that Antoine Paillard acquired a few acres of vines in Bouzy to become winegrower. For Benoît, the story starts during his childhood when he spent all his thursdays in the vineyard or the estate but also in 1973 when he returned to the family estate. Following his father – Pierre Paillard – footsteps, he took over the estate very young with the obligation to move forward. Strength, tenacity and open-mindedness became essential for him, constantly learning from his work even today and enjoying every facet of his work. For Quentin, the memory that left a mark from  his childhood was when he used to pick grapes during the harvest and taste the fruity and sweet juices. In Champagne, Bordeaux but also the rest of the world… the winemaker learnt the different aspects of the wine industry – all the wine making process but also commercialization, marketing – but is also a  great wine enthusiast and wine lover.

After a business school and experiences in large companies until the age of 25, Antoine came back on the estate in 2008, originally for 6 months but never left again. Winegrower, winemaker and globetrotter… just like his brother Antoine is a wine lover as well as a champagne enthusiast. The first years – 2008, 2009 and 2010 – were mainly a transmission, learning matter, working with the family and discovering what was done elsewhere – in Champagne but also in other wine regions. He got the opportunity to witness the importance of sharing in Champagne and notably made the acquaintance of Jérôme Déhours and Rodolph Peters with whom he will choose to join in the group called Artisans du Champagne. Then, from 2010-2011, Antoine sets up his own choices with a strong attraction and connection with the vine and the wine part which represents a real challenge : the one to produce terroir wines but aslo to understand the soils, the grape varieties, the yields … all the factors influencing the finished wine. From the beginning, the vision of wine immediately passionate the winegrower as the basis of the great wines is above all to understand the soil, to become aware of each element… an approach in line with the work of his father on the soils. What Antoine likes about his work at the family estate is the idea that it takes years to build, produce and create exceptional cuvées.

With the desire to build something, the family business represents in his eyes a true project, a true structure with a vision to be set up regarding wines, quality, quantity … A real opportunity for a project management in its globality with the opportunity to drive even further this already well-positioned company. A beautiful terroir, a magic job … The estate, the winemaking process tool, the terroir … A project from A to Z: starting with the soil to the marketing and tasting part, every step, all the process is to be mastered. Moreover, it is a great freedom too since his father left Quentin and Antoine the choice to bring things forward from the beginning.

From the soil to the tasting…

Respect for soils, control of yields, vinification of each plot separately and long aging… the winemaking process at Champagne Paillard is respectful and meticulous starting of course in the vineyard with a great attention provided to the terroir. Located in the chalky Champagne formerly called wrongly Champagne Pouilleuse – i.e down-and-out Champagne –, the estate is set on clay, limestone and chalk soils in the edge of the appellation in  Bouzy – a village well-known for the high quality of its Grand Cru terroir and notably the excellence of its Pinot Noirs. The Domain of the family consists of 11 hectares spread over 30 plots with an average age of 30 years and is planted for 60% in Pinot Noir and 40% in Chardonnay depending on soil and exposure. The vineyard provides a great geographical and geological diversity – slopes, exposure, age of the vines and different depths of the chalk – a great richness for the winegrowers who benefits from a large range of identities to crafts great wines. Through their work, Benoît, Quentin and Antoine manage to let the full potential of the minerality of the soils expresses itself creating terroir-driven cuvées.

For 20 years now, the estate have been using a sustainable culture, an approach allowing to make sure of the balance and quality of the  soils. The vines are managed on the principle of integrating farming which is ecologically compatible with a good health of the plant but also of the grapes. Indeed, the three winegrowers deeply believe that a great wine is built in the vineyards and that the winemaker is the artisan who uses his creativity to develop beautiful cuvées.  Adapting their method to each year and each type of soil, removing the fertilizers for 15 years now, implementing natural grass covering, using fallow land during two years before replanting, choice of the plant material, surface ploughing not to break strata and connections, use of water from the well located in the cellars for all treatments, control of the yields… the objective is to have a healthy, self-regulate and functioning soil in order to produce quality grapes and well-balanced wines. The winegrowers even go as far as the acceptance of harmful forms and other natural risks.

In the vineyard, all began with the plant material selection and in Champagne, there is the selection of clones – which are from unknown provenance and give too much yield for the quality the estate is looking for – and massal selection. Antoine’s father tested the clones but quickly returned to his own selection so each new vine stock is planted with selected plant material from the Pierre Paillard vineyard. Today, Antoine works following on from this meticulous selection work as the choice of a plant material is done with precise and strict qualitative criteria in order to guarantee the diversity of the plant material against the clones. The winegrower is even working on a project to bring around thirty winemakers from the Champagne area together in order to create a selection, a diversity for this massal solution. The idea is to select interesting young plants in each village in order to make them available to try on other terroir of Champagne. Two important points are essential to this project: 

  • first, to save the genetic heritage of Champagne as there is too few massal selection from Champagne today.
  • then, in term of quality : it will allow to have a qualitative selection and to preserve this quality.

An other specificity of the estate is that for the last fifteen years, the average age of the vines have been extended with an average age of 30 years old. Antoine and his family are very conscious of the fact that the vines planted are for 50 years or more which also means that the balance of the plants is crucial. With this goal in mind, the uprooting is followed by fallows during two years – a resting time for the soil also used to let grow grasses source of green manure. Of course this approach is far from the ‘yield at any price high’ one. However, what is important for the Paillard family is to use an ecological method respecting their terroir and the plants but on the top of that favoring the disappearance of certain viruses and recharging the soil with structuring  elements.

The balance of the vineyard and its soil is essential. Indeed, the vine feeds on minerals loaded into the soil in the organic form and therefore not available in this form for the plant. Therefore, the ecosystem must be strengthened to ensure that the minerals become available for the vines thanks to the micro-organisms. Antoine uses only local compost to compensate for losses due to viticulture. Thanks to that local compost, the winegrowers provides supply of locally produced mushrooms and bacteria to the terroir. Moreover, his choice of working with a local material makes it easier for the plant to settle in the environment. Antoine therefore pushes the understanding of biology to help soil and produce quality grapes, including of course the control as well as choice of local and quality inputs. With this informations in mind, when you take a tour in the Clos of the family – located just next to the house -, the vegetation is luxuriant as Antoine is trying different grass covering including plants of different Japanese radishes. A little hidden paradise perfectly reflecting the philosophy and the approach of the estate.

As for the vinification, it is the culmination of every stages before… First, the grapes are often picked at high ripeness, the goal being to create character wines with a lot of richness. During the winemaking process, Antoine makes sure to be the least intrusive possible in the actions done on the wine : the terroir of Bouzy already offers wines with a lot of density and character. Through his work, Antoine tries to preserve the signatures of the terroir and the quality of the grapes as well as to keep the very frank side of the wines, He hardly manipulates the wines, leaving them for 8 months on lees. Being the least intrusive possible also means choosing the container taking the one that will be as neutral as possible : vats and a very small quantity of barrels which are used mainly for the Bouzy Rouges and with fairly large containers – foudres and  demi-muid. The estate uses new casks but only after they have been used for 1 or 2 wines in order to control the aging of the oak. Indeed, the sought-after goal is to preserve the different wine and terroir nuances – as everything is a matter of nuances during the tasting.

In the new vat room built in 2001 and specially designed to meet the needs of a highly precise vinification, each plot is vinified separately. An approach allowing a very precise work on wines as each of them is processed and tasted individually. When it comes to the blending, the winemakers uses their experience to project themselves through time without forgetting to listen to the wines. As for the malolactic fermentation, it is done on all wines of the estate.

The bottling done, the wines undergo a second fermentation and age for a minimum of 3 years in the 19th century cellar of the estate offering a constant temperature of 10°C – i.e 50°F – dug in 1880-1890. It offers the perfect conditions for the cuvées to benefit from time. The aging time is decided according to the blends but also to the natural balance between alcohol and acidity during tastings – seeking for balance and finesse for the blended cuvées, complexity and elegance for the vintages. Once the wines are ready, it is time for the disgorging and the dosage : based on the same rule of the natural balance of the cuvées, the estate choose low dosages to perfect the finesse of tasting. The precision of the blends, the plot by plot vinification, the long aging times and the low dosage is what crafts the Champagne Pierre style leading to wines with beautiful tension and great elegance.

A tasting around finesse and refinement 

Back in the tasting room where an old press stands next to other historical tools used in the winemaking process, Antoine starts pouring the champagnes explaining the approach behind each cuvées. The tasting offers a refined and clear style for wine with vinous identity.

LES PARCELLES 12
«Delicateness, balance and finesse »

Perfect introduction of the style of Champagne Pierre Paillard, this 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay wine is a blend cuvée of the entire estate, in other words 22 plots spread over the village of Bouzy and whose vines average 25 years in age. The grapes mainly come from the 2012 harvest (70%) blended with reserve wines from 2011, 2010 and 2004. The cuvée was vinified in stainless steel vats, underwent the malolactic fermentation and lied 8 months on lees until bottling. A long aging came after with bottles who stayed 5 years in the cellar of the estate creating a perfect balance between complexity and finesse. The Extra-Brut dosage – 2.6g/L – put the final touch to this identity champagne.
A golden straw colored wine with pink silver hints. The nose is intense and fine at the same time with round and fruity aromas – citrus and yellow fruits. The palate is generous, complex and taut offering apple and pear aromas balanced with hazelnuts and toasted notes. The delicate finish is mineral and precise.

LES MAILLERETTES 2012
«Elegant, fruity and terroir driven»

This Blanc de Noirs is made 100% from Pinot Noirs harvested in 2012 and coming from a 0.8 acre plot planted in 1970 called Les Maillerettes. This parcel benefits from pure chalk subsoil and clay soil as well as old vines used for massal selection. The exceptional quality of the grapes are highlighted through the vinification in stainless steel tanks, the eight months on lees before the bottling but also thanks to the Extra-Brut dosage of 2.6 g/L. The wine then aged 5 years in the cellar of the estate. A production of only 2500 bottles.
The color is a light golden color with pink hints. The nose is harmonious and elegant with vinous and mineral character as well as delicate red fruits fragrances. The palate – ample and frank – is complex and racy with the Pinot Noir fruitiness combined with a strong terroir minerality. An elegant wine developing white fleshed fruits, floral and saline notes.

LES MOTTELETTES 2010
«Precision, complexity and minerality»

Single-varietal, single-vineyard, single-harvest… Made of 100% Chardonnay, this Extra-Brut Blanc de Blancs vintage is crafted from grapes coming from a very specific plot called Les Mottelettes. Located in the lower part of Bouzy, this 1.5 acre parcel benefits from soils of clay and pure chalk subsoil where exceptional old vines of Chardonnay are used for the massal selection of the estate. Only the first press and the heart of the cuvée is used and vinified in stainless steel vat where the wine undergo the malolactic fermentation and are kept on its lees during eight months before the bottling. This vintage champagne aged a total of 5 years in the cellar of the estate before being disgorged with an Extra-Brut dosage of 1,8 grams. Only 4000 bottles.
A straw colored wine with golden hints. The nose is precise developing a complex bouquet of aromas including vanilla notes. The palate is both fleshy and voluminous expressing floral notes melted with orchard fruit and citrus aromas as well as a certain salinity. The wine is also tense, dry and rich with great balance and finesse. The finish is long and mineral with a pure chalky terroir-driven character.

LES TERRES ROSES 2012
«Gracious, vibrant and mineral»

Predominantly made of white grapes – 70% of Chardonnay with 30% of Pinot Noir -, this  blended rosé is crafted with an addition of 6% of Pinot Noir still red wine and a base of 2012 harvest (70%) perfectly balanced with 2011 and 2010. The vinification is done in stainless steel vats before a 18 months maturation in 205-liter oak barrels. With malolactic fermentation and the low dosage of 4.5 g/L,  the process creates a well balanced wine with a gracious texture.
The color is a light pink with orangy hints. Taut and generous, the nose expresses aromatic, vinous, fruity and floral fragrances. At first the palate is lively and saline developing floral notes, then it brings vinosity as well as a beautiful red fruit bouquet with vibrant small berries flavors – white raspberry and red currant. The finish is persistent with resonating mineral character.

LA GRANDE RECOLTE 2006
«Richness, balance and freshness»

This 2006 vintage is a blend of 50 % Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir. Quintessence of a single harvest but also of the vineyard of the estate, this champagne is crafted from first press and heart of the cuvée of grapes from old vines. Vinified in stainless steel tanks, the wine undergo the malolactic fermentation and is kept eight months on lees before bottling. The 11-year ageing and the Extra-Brut dosage – 2.6 g/L – highlight elegantly the mineral expression of the terroir of Bouzy.
A golden yellow colored wine. The nose is fresh and expressive with intense ripe fruits aromas of blood orange and quince. The palate – taut, rich and complex – is perfectly balanced between the power of the Pinot Noir and the freshness of the Chardonnay. After few minutes, it develops spicy notes and chalky minerality.

BONUS :  Les Mignottes – Bouzy Rouge 2012

2012 is one of the excellent year for the Champagne vineyard. Some experts even qualify it among the best vintages of the region even though the climatic conditions of the season seemed hardly favorable at first glance for a great vintage. The only drawback for the winegrower is the average drop of 30% for the harvests. 2012 was cold especially in February and with a winter lasting until April. While the vegetative cycle was difficult to start, Spring brought heavy precipitations until mid-July. Not only, the flowering was complicated and heterogeneous, the pressure of the diseases was strong affecting yields. July was sunny allowing a perfect maturity of the grapes until the picking. The producers benefited from warm and dry weather during the harvest. The grapes were in perfect sanitary condition with the gray mold practically absent. The quality was impressive.
A 100% Pinot Noir still red wine made with grapes coming from old vines of 45 years old of a plot called « Les Mignottes » and from the 2012 harvest. The localization halfway down the hill and the exposure of the slopes offers a beautiful fruit maturity. The 18 months vinification in oak casks of 205 liters highlight the character of this Coteaux. This vintage is a confidential wine with only 2500 bottles produced.
The color is a bright intense red ruby. The nose is deep and neat with red fruits aromas. After a few minutes of aeration, it develops complex mineral and pepper notes. The palate is delicate, silky and full of finesse with a certain sweetness and brings lively, intense flavors with a fruit purity – cherry and spicy notes. The perfect image of a Pinot Noir wine coming from chalky soils.

Pierre Paillard

Responsable : Antoine, Quentin and Benoît Paillard

Location : Bouzy (Montagne de Reims)

Majority grape variety : Pinot Noir

Other grape varieties : Chardonnay

Vineyard surface : 11 ha

Viticulture : Sustainable culture

Contact :

CHAMPAGNE PIERRE PAILLARD
2 rue du XXe siècle
51150 Bouzy
www.champagne-pierre-paillard.fr

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