I walked through the entrance of the Merchants Tavern in Shoreditch to be met by a the manager, an engaging young lady sporting a sharp blonde bob and some facial piercings. I liked her and the venue immediately. It was cool, unpretentious yet serious. A large central bar, an open kitchen at the back with a dining counter. This was a place that offered no where to hide and you could feel the passion running surrounding you. I was not here to eat from the regular menu though, instead a specially created one to accompany the Champagnes of Bruno Paillard and in particular the 2008 vintage which will be available in the UK in around 4 weeks time.

The bar. Image courtesy of the Merchants Tavern.

The bar. Image courtesy of the Merchants Tavern.

The restaurant. Image courtesy of the Merchants Tavern.

The restaurant. Image courtesy of the Merchants Tavern.

Our lunch was served in the basement “Storeroom”, a private dining room complete with a vintage stereo, speakers, amplifier, turntable and a few sought after rounds of vinyl. It was the perfect location for this lunch and tasting. I would have loved to had my senses bought alive with dramatic sounds as we walked into the room, not that I like music in dining rooms – who has for the past 20 years, but purely to hear the vinyl tones before being turned off to focus on what we were there to do.

The Storeroom. Image courtesy of the Merchants Tavern.

The Storeroom. Image courtesy of the Merchants Tavern.

It is well documented the Bruno Paillard was working for his father as a broker when in 1981 he sold his MK11 Jaguar for the equivalent of £5000 to help fund the launch of his own Champagne Maison. A brave, forward thinking man willing to roll the dice and create a wine and brand consistent with his own vision. He is a unique man in world of large corporates, what other Champagne house’s label has the name of the owners, the grower and winemaker on it’s label? Bruno is not a man afraid to challenge convention, he was the first for example to print the date of disgorgement on his labels. His point being that Champagne is a living product and having been through the trauma of disgorgement it is only natural that the wine needs to time to rest and recuperate. He also introduced the solera system for ageing his reserve wines and has wines going back to 1985 (1984 was a disastrous vintage).


Bruno Paillard is a shrewd businessman in addition to being an exemplary winemaker. Wether by accident or thorough diligent marketing backed ultimately by the quality of the wine his Champagnes are now listed in literally hundreds of Michelin starred restaurants and frequently available by the glass. In fact 80% of his sales are to restaurants in 35 countries. What Bruno Paillard offers is consistency in his Champagne. Unlike other, larger houses who vary their dosage (the amount of sugar added after disgorgement) depending on the perceived markets tastes his remain the same. If you have a bottle in Malaysia it will have the same dosage as one on Manchester. The average quantity is said to be 10-12gm which helps balance the natural acidity. Bruno only adds circa 5gm across his whole range.






Grapes are sourced from 89 plots within 14 cru covering some 32 hectares. Bruno owns a number of these vineyards personally but also works very closely with other growers a great number of whom are on there 2nd or even 3rd generation with him. This loyalty brings quality and exacting standards of viticulture being practiced. Long term alliances such as these breed consistency, trust and pride all of which are essential if making Champagne to a world class standard. No chemicals are utilised within the vineyards and the soils are ploughed to destroy roots near the surface making the vines work hard to send them deep into the earth.

Bruno’s daughter Alice was also in attendance having worked closely within the business for the past 9 years. Prior to this she had studied management and marketing for 4 years at the Dauphine University in Paris before undertaking a further qualification as a master of international trade of wine and spirits in Dijon focussing on viticulture and oenology. She now works alongside Bruno as a the manager. It was wonderful to have her expertise and insight into the wines.



The menu was as follows:-

Fresh & Deep Fried Oysters with Pigs Head “Cromesquis”
Bruno Paillard Rose Premiere Cuvee (disgorged 11 months ago)
(Pale. Small bubbles. Dosage around 5.5. Delicate. Minute proportion of Chardonnay. Light berry nose.)

Sea Bream Sashimi, Blood Orange, Fennel and Spring Onion
Bruno Paillard Premiere Cuvee (disgorged 10 months ago)
(3 years on lees. 35-42% reserve wines. 1st pressing only. 32 cru in the assemblage. 45 % Pinot Noir, 33% Chard, 22% Pinot Menieur. Delicious! Biscuit. Richness. Acidity is very well balanced. Great length. Wonderful on the back on the palate. Very enjoyable)

Roasted Scallops, Celeriac, Chanterelles and Champagne Sauce
Bruno Paillard Assemblage 2008 (disgorged 11 months ago)
(42% Chardonnay, 42% Pinot Noir and 16% of Meunier, aged for 7 seven years. Pale gold colour with mineralogy on the nose. Delicate at first but blossoming with time). Long length and will benefit further from being laid down. One for long term ageing to see how it develops.

Bruno Paillard Assemblage 2008 (disgorged 11 months ago)

Amide Tuscany Chocolate Tart and Mousse
Bruno Paillard Rose Premiere Cuvee (disgorged 11 months ago)





You will have noticed that the label on the 2008 showcases a piece of art, commissioned for each Champagne that declares a vintage by Bruno. This has been practised since his first vintage in 1981 when the artist Christine Burdin was commissioned to paint a piece entitled “Exuberance”. The artist is only contacted a short time prior to release allowing Bruno to assess the wine and define it in a singular word. He then reminisces about artists he has met or whose work he has seen to conclude who would be appropriate to paint such a piece. For the 2008 Vintage that artist was Bang Hai Ja. In Bruno Paillard words:-

“To illustrate this vintage, the Korean artist, Bang Hai Ja, worked along the following theme: “Energy”. Bang Hai Ja was born in Korea in 1937; her grandfather was a painter and calligrapher. In Paris since 1961, she has always painted with both Eastern and Western techniques. For example she marries Asian pigments with the earth of Roussillon. Her paintings evoke the very essence of the elements such as the breath of the sea, the beam of light or the heart of a rock. For her, art is related to the cosmos, and the breath is paramount; she animates her work with a singular and powerful presence, where the light that emanates from her paintings lends a great serenity and gives the appearance that the very canvas breathes”

The lunch was an excellent introduction to the Champagnes of Bruno Paillard and they impressed. As you will hear in the interview above Monsieur Paillard shares a passion for classic cars with myself so a trip to Reims is now on the cards where I will hopefully be able to view the cellars and vineyards.