We were privileged to meet Paul Girard, founder of Champagne Girard-Bonnet, an estate comprising 12 hectares of vineyards in Grand Cru-certified Le Mesnil sur Oger and Oger, and Premier Cru-certified Vertus. In our hearty conversation, Paul tells us about his experiences, his convictions, and his upcoming projects.
Tell us about your oenological journey. What were your industrial experiences and what inspired you to found the Girard-Bonnet estate?
I obtained a double master's degree in Wine Management and an advanced diploma in Oenology and Viticulture. So, I had all the necessary knowledge on paper, but I lacked practical experience until I spent a year working at Champagne Vauversin. In that role, I witnessed every aspect of the champagne-making process. Champagne Vauversin has been certified organic since 2012 and exclusively works with Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs. This experience provided me with valuable insights that I could apply. The owner also generously shared a wealth of advice on the organic champagne-making process.
However, from my perspective, every vineyard is unique, as is each cellar. Therefore, even if I'm employing the exact same methods as Laurent, my wine will possess its distinct character. Consequently, I embarked on the journey of exploring each vineyard plot, my cellar, and my barrels all on my own. To me, it's of paramount importance to convey my philosophy and the emotions I wish to share through my wines. This entails conducting tests every year, with each endeavor contributing to a greater level of precision. While my parents were primarily focused on vineyard work, maintaining exemplary organic practices, they didn't delve into cellar techniques. Consequently, my mission was clear: I needed to uncover the nuances of our vineyard plots.
Congratulations on being awarded the Demeter certification! In the light of the climatic conditions in recent years, what are the challenges and rewards of working organically and biodynamically on your vineyards?
Working with organic and biodynamic methods presents challenges each year. Natural protection is less effective against mildew and oidium compared to chemical products. There might be years when we don't harvest any grapes; we are prepared for that possibility. However, it's also a philosophy. We cultivate grapes without the use of chemical products, which benefits not only champagne enthusiasts but also our employees and us. If we can produce champagne in a natural way, it benefits everyone—the planet and humanity as a whole. Certainly, it entails a great deal of work, and we require more hands to accomplish the same tasks, but we sense that our vineyard becomes more self-reliant. It better resists pests, and biodiversity offers natural protection against insects; beneficial species counter the harmful ones. The grape yield becomes more balanced, resulting in improved ripening and richer aromas. I can discern the energy and expression in the juice.
Tell us about your taste preferences. What type of cuisine do you enjoy, and what type of wines do you like to drink?
It's quite simple—I appreciate good things. I derive enjoyment from food and beverages crafted with a genuine desire for excellence. When a chef seeks out a farmer who is dedicated to producing the finest vegetables, and then the chef skillfully incorporates them into dishes, how can you not savor such an experience? Sharing such moments with family and friends elevates the enjoyment and creates lasting memories.
What food would you recommend pairing with Girard-Bonnet A Mi-Chemin champagne?
In terms of food pairing, I find that Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs possesses delicacy and finesse, accompanied by a beautiful freshness, albeit with a hint of shyness. It's an excellent choice for an aperitif, seafood, or white meats like chicken. Additionally, its acidity enhances the aromas, making it an ideal match for sushi.
We noticed your Sydonios glasses. Is that your preferred stemware, and in your opinion, how does the Sydonios wine glass deliver the characteristics of your wine?
I'm fond of Sydonios
because it's a relatively new brand, like mine, established around 2018. All their glassware is meticulously crafted using the traditional mouth-blown method, resulting in artisanal products of impeccable quality. As mentioned earlier, Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs isn't inherently expressive, so precision in glassware is essential. I particularly enjoy sipping champagne with the Universal glass and still wines with L'Esthète
. Interestingly, I believe the founders of Sydonios
hail from Reims!
Could you share if there are any new cuvées in the upcoming vintages from the Girard-Bonnet estate?
Excitingly, there are new releases planned for 2024. Champagne production is a patient process, and commencing was challenging. I had to build up my stock, which is why I currently exclusively offer non-vintage champagne. Nevertheless, I embarked on this journey in 2018, six years ago, and now it's time to introduce my first vintage! My perpetual reserve from Le Mesnil sur Oger is finally ready, and I also have plans for a non-vintage premier cru. I'll keep the details under wraps for now; you'll have the opportunity to discover all the information in a few months.
You have been touted as one of the rising stars representing the new generation of vignerons of Champagne. How do you see yourself working in any way differently from the traditional houses and the pioneering growers of the region?
As for whether I'm considered one of the rising stars in Champagne, I can't say for certain. My focus has always been on creating the best wines possible. I haven't introduced groundbreaking winemaking or vineyard techniques. Instead, my approach centres on understanding how the vine functions and supporting its natural health. In the cellar, I use the minimum interventions necessary to preserve the grape's essence. The main difference, perhaps, is my unwavering motivation. If a method is more demanding but enhances vine health, I embrace it. My constant aim is to elevate the quality of my wines, often by revisiting traditional methods such as tending to the soil in the vineyard or employing barrels in the cellar.
I am constantly contemplating what I can do next and how I can improve.
A Mi-Chemin Grand Cru, the premiere cuvée of Champagne Girard-Bonnet, is available at Wine Journey.