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Champagnes of Bruno Paillard & 2002 Armand Rousseau Clos St-Jacques & 1982 Latour-a-Pomerol

May 18, 2011

These notes come from a private dinner with Monsieur Bruno Paillard on May 4, 2011, at Imperial Treasure Great World, where YS had been very kind to have extended me an invitation as a guest of Vinum, which was hosting the dinner. In terms of production, Maison Bruno Paillard doesn’t quite count amongst the usual suspects, but its quality quite easily surpasses many of the bigger names. It transpired during conversation that Bruno Paillard is the champagne of choice for the Singapore embassy in France, a wonderful testament to the ambassador’s sophisticated palate as much as to the winemaker’s skill. The wines were served in rapid succession over the course of a sumptious Cantonese cuisine.

First came the Bruno Paillard Premier Cuvee Brut. Pale. High-toned crystalline minerality offset by bitter-sweet citrus. Good body, fairly smooth, not too sharp, revealing some depth, layered with wonderful acidity. Lively and refreshing. An excellent champagne in its own right. I’ve always felt that the reputation of every respectable maison de champagne is built upon its non-vintage cuvee, it’s calling card, and Bruno Paillard certainly does not disappoint. Following on, the Bruno Paillard Premier Cuvee Rose, with a dull golden rose-scented glow, was deceptively smooth and easy with attractive orangey citrus and a hint of strawberries , coming across as being a bit straightforward and nondescript initially. But it developed most impressively over time, growing in density, fleshing out, becoming more fruity with more minerality coming through. Not quite in the same league as the Jacques Lassaigne rose that I had recently, but this can be rewarding if you have the patience to wait.

The following pair of vintage champagnes proved that Bruno Paillard deserves to sit alongside the champagne greats. The 1996 Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs, pale, with lovely clarity, was notably bigger and deeper on the nose with wonderful lifted aromas, the complexity and supple minerality already coming through on the nose. Broad and expansive on the palate with lovely poise and incredible definition, richer over time, leading to a long lasting finish. Not the last word in depth but it more than makes up for it with its excellent integration and balance. Superb as this was, it was trumped by the 1995 Bruno Paillard N.P.U. “Nec Plus Ultra”, made only from grand cru grapes only in great vintages. Just a tad deeper in color than the Blanc de blancs. There’s a sense of great depth on the nose, highly perfumed, topped with yeasty notes, nutty and creamy. Expansive and ultra smooth, showing great body and complexity, gaining in depth over time, seamless and mature, incredibly complex at its long, long finish. A complete wine.

YS had brought along two reds to round off the evening. The 2002 Armand Rousseau Clos St-Jacques 1er Cru was deeply rose-scented and, typically for this producer, deeply-layered with immense complexity in the mid-body, gloriously lush and ripe, highly perfumed with great purity of fruit whilst still remaining tight. This is a wine for the long haul. Like Patek Philippe, it’s perhaps meant for the next generation. The piece de resistance came in the form of a 1982 Ch Latour-a-Pomerol, served from magnum (!). Still retaining a deep red core but obviously mature, exuding a highly complex bouquet that defies description. It has that luminous hallowed glow of aged Bordeaux, slightly salty, imparting flavours of red and dark berries from fruit of great purity with wonderful profound depth. Still remarkably youthful and lively in other respects, quite complete as a wine, just missing the outright lushness of a Pomerol, but probably for the better. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the evening.

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