Today I thought I would write about a relationship that has been developing for some time now: my growing love for the least known of the three main grape varietals used for Champagne, Pinot Meunier. We all know Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but Meunier as a grape is often left in the shadows. It has perhaps traditionally been considered more as a “filler” instead of the leading grape. However, Meunier can produce a charismatic and an absolutely wonderful champagne just o its own.
Pinot Meunier, like Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris, is one of the many mutations of Pinot Noir. Last week while visiting Bollinger I learned that the name of the grape comes from the appearance of its leaf, which look as though they’ve been dusted with flour (meunier is French for “miller”). Meunieur makes up for nearly 40% of all the vineyards in Champagne. It is considered to be more reliable in terms of a consistent harvest as it buds later and ripens earlier than Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, thus avoiding spring frosts and autumn rains.
Meunier has a slightly higher natural acidity than pinot noir and gives some brightness, fruitiness, and spiciness when included in Champagne blends. Until recently, Meunier was not acknowledged as the “main ingredient” in Champagne, preferring to emphasise the use of the other noble varieties. However, Meunier is gaining recognition fast for the body and richness it contributes to Champagne. As Meunieur is grown in many different parts of the Champagne region, low and high altitude as well as different types of soil (including clay and limestone), the grape can produce many types of end product. My experience from my trials with 100% Meunier champagnes is either love or hate. A poor quality Meunier is horrible, and a good one can make it to my all time top five.
During our last trip, I had the chance to try a few 100% Meuniers that I think should go on any chanpagne-lovers shopping list:
- Christophe Mignon Pur Meunier Brut Nature.
- Laherte Frères, Les Vignes d’Autrefois, Extra-Brut
- Bourgeois-Diaz Meunier Extra Brut
There you go, a crash-course on Pinot Meunier, for which my grape-love just keeps on growing. So please tip me off if you know any other good bottles that I should add to my cellar.