Nec Plus Ultra is Bruno Paillard’s flagship Champagne. It’s name is Latin for ‘there is nothing beyond’ and certainly gives an idea of the house’s aspirations for this cuvée.
It has only been made a handful of times since the range’s inaugural 1990 vintage, released in 2002. Since then the house, founded in 1981, has released seven other vintages in the following order: 1995, 1996, 1999, 2003, 2002 and now 2004.
NPU’s main USP is its 10-12 years of lees ageing, but other strings to its bow include grand cru-sourced grapes (a 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), maturing the still wines in barriques for 10 months before assemblage, and minimal dosage. In fact, all of Paillard’s Champagnes fall into the Extra Brut category due to dosages of below 6g/l.
At the recent UK launch of the Nec Plus Ultra 2004, Alice Paillard noted that the wine is ‘born in the barrel’. And the 10 months or so that the still wines spend in old barriques certainly adds a structural element and airy depth that should enable these wines to age gracefully for years to come. Combined with the slightly reductive, autolytic nature of extended lees contact, the result is a fizz that has incredibly fine bubbles, plenty of complexity, and yet retains incredible freshness.
Bruno Paillard ages all its Champagnes in bottle for a minimum of six months post-disgorgement, ‘to recover from the surgery,’ as Alice puts it, but NPU is aged for longer: 24 months. And unlike some other high-end Champagnes, NPU isn’t disgorged to order. Instead, the house prefers to disgorge it all in one go and release it to market just the once.
As a result of its extremely long ageing process, NPU is one of the last 2004s to be released. Only 7,119 bottles and 310 magnums were produced in 2004, but what this lacks in volume it makes up for in quality.
The 2004 vintage
Although cooler than Champagne’s 10-year averages, 2004 still enjoyed plenty of sunshine, especially in a dry July and warm September. Harvest commenced on 27 September for the Chardonnays and finished on 18 October with the last of the Pinot Noirs, allowing the grapes a long ripening period.
Tasting Nec Plus Ultra 2004 & more: