STORY AND PHOTOS BY DWIGHT CASHMERE
Alice Paillard with her signature Champagnes from Reims-France
The "Dirty Burger" with French Fries is the perfect accompaniment to Champagne
Bruno Paillard Dosage Zero
Alice Paillard is the only one of her four siblings to take up the mantlle of her father Bruno's passion, to create an elegant, dry Champagne that is true in expression to the character of the region. When her father began the Champagne house in 1981 at the age of 27, France was in the throes of an economic sea-change. "That's when the big supermarkets starting coming into France and, at the same time, these big investment groups starting financing the big Champagne houses who could supply them," Alice Paillard opined. The resulting impact was a severe decline in quality, which Bruno Paillard decried. To this day, her remains one of the last seven or eight independent family owned Champagne houses. Fiercely independent, his name appears on every bottle and his style is that of a Champagne that is much drier than what is typical of the region. Others now appear to emulate his lead as they attempt to attract new devotees in the face of growing global competition.
"Bruno Paillard Champagne is our personal interpretation of Champagne. Our Champagnes use exclusively, the first pressing – the purest juice – Pinot Noir (45%), Chardonnay (33%) and Pinot Meunier (22%), part of which (20%) was in barrel for the first fermentation. Our Premiere Cuvee is a very personal interpretation of the whole region. To create it, we select 35 of the 320 crus of champagne. It is the flagship of our style. Through it, we are able to express the specificity of the terroir of the region.
"We don't call our Champagne Non-Vintage," Paillard emphasized. "Ours is Multi-Vintage. We select only the best years to create a Vintage Champagne. So, you might have a bit of '85 or '86 and so on, only the best years are selected to create a different blend for each vintage, concentrating on the personality of each harvest."
One of the most important steps in the process of making Bruno Paillard Champagne is the Disgorgement. "From this day, a process of aging begins that is unique to Champagne," Paillard expressed. " This is where the wine evolves giving it the distinctive color, aromatics and tastes of flowers, fruits and spices. We were the first Maison to print the date of disgorgement on the back of every label, starting in 1983. This was a first for Champagne."
Besides being the first to list a date of disgorgement on its labels, Bruno Paillard accomplished a number of 'firsts' in Champagne. Bruno Paillard was the first to use gyropallettes, a mechanical process that offers precision and consistency, thus guaranteeing superior quality. Every bottle is turned exactly one degree at each rotation. This replaced the ancient technique of hand riddling. Long aging 'on the lees,' the dead yeast, releases flavors and aromas which gives the champagne unparalleled complexity and finesse.
On a recent visit to Chicago, Alice Paillard decided to 'test drive' her Champagnes against the varied menu of The Loyalist, a West Loop contemporary restaurant that takes the concept of the gastropub to new heights. Chef/owners John and Karen Urie Shields took their combined experience from various high-end kitchens in the Virginia and D.C. area and applied them to their restaurants in Chicago, the upstairs Smyth, which offers a high-end tasting menu, and the less formal The Loyalist, which gives ordinary tavern food a decidedly decadent twist. The Loyalist's cheeseburger, for example, is a generous hunk of ground meat mixture of short rib, chuck and ground bacon all bathed in American cheese, housemate pickles, onions and onion-infused mayo. Dubbed "The Dirty Burger," its so popular it even has its own Instagram account. The French Fries, cooked and presented in a cast iron skillet, are the perfect combination with Bruno Paillard Champagne.
Starters of an eclair stuffed with foie gras mouse, raw oysters on the half shell, Mussels swimming in Escargot Butter and Cream and a pillowly housemate Ricotta Gnocchi bathed in Toasted Yeast, Parmesan Cream and dusted with Black Truffles rounded out the family style meal for a select group. Clustered at the center of the table were open bottles of Bruno Paillard Dosage Zero, which contains absolutely no residual sugar, Rose Premiere Cuvee and Blanc De Blanc Grand Cru. Because Bruno Paillard Champagnes receive extra aging and are super dry, they are the perfect accompaniment to a wide range of foods, as the Loyalist dinner excursion proved.
Bruno Paillard Champagnes are available at many of the areas select restaurants. They are also available at discriminating wine shops and beverage depots throughout the Chicagoland area. Bruno Paillard Champagnes are very comfortably priced in the $50-$60 range and will go toe-to-toe with champagnes costing twice as much.For more information, visit champagnebrunopaillard.com
Oysters on the Half Shell and (below) Ricotta Gnocchi with Parmesan Cream and Black Truffles
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