Photo: Maison Bruno Paillard
Bruno Paillard is releasing the 2002 vintage of his top-of-the-range N.P.U. Champagne at 240 pounds ($324) a bottle from London merchants.
The premium Champagne is 50 percent Chardonnay and 50 percent Pinot Noir, and comes entirely from six of Champagne’s Grand Cru vineyard sites at Oger, Le Mesnil-Sur-Oger, Chouilly, Verzenay, Mailly and Bouzy.
Production was limited to 6,200 75-centiliter bottles and 300 1.5-liter magnums, equivalent to a total of 5,100 liters with a retail value of about $2.2 million.
Earlier editions of the N.P.U., which stands for the Latin phrase Nec Plus Ultra, or “there is nothing beyond,”, started with the 1990 and continued through the 1995, 1996, 1999 and 2003 vintages.
The 2003 was released 18 months ago, the result of being a particularly hot vintage, and is now close to being sold out. ``The ’02 had much more acidity than the ’03,’’ Bruno Paillard said in an interview in London during a presentation of the vintage, describing the year as a ``classical season’’ until the last day of picking.
The N.P.U. 2002 came from the first-press wine, the first 50 centiliters of juice crushed from each kilo of grapes, according to Paillard. It then spent 10 months in used oak barriques and 11 years in bottle before disgorgement in September 2014, and a final three years maturing after that, making 14 years in bottle. ``It’s absolutely unique in Champagne,’’ he said.
Paillard’s 32.5 hectares (80 acres) of vines are spread out across 14 villages in Champagne, and include 12.5 hectares of Grand Cru vineyards.
N.P.U. is only made in the years when quality is sufficiently high, and the next release is likely to be the 2004. It represents a very small proportion of Maison Bruno Paillard’s overall output, which is in the region of 350,000 to 450,000 bottles a year. He has 2.5 million bottles in stock in the cellar.
Paillard built the business himself, starting out as a Champagne broker in the 1970s before setting up Maison Bruno Paillard in 1981 with 50,000 francs capital funded from the sale of his vintage 1965 Jaguar MKII. He was able to keep his other vintage car of the time, a 1953 Citroen Traction.
The first vineyards to be acquired were 3 hectares in Oger, and that has grown steadily over the years to the 32.5 hectares he now has, which supply more than 60 percent of the grapes needed for his production. The rest are bought in from producers around the region.