Pinot Meunier, the Other Noble Grape in Champagne
Pinot Meunier might not be as famous as its stablemates in Champagne, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. Still, the grape is critical in making the region’s sparkling wines. Every wine lover should learn more about Meunier since we wouldn’t have premium sparkling wine without it, from Champagne to the trendy, fizzy English wine.
Champagne: The flavor of Pinot Meunier.
Pinot Meunier covers 32% of the vineyards in Champagne, followed by Chardonnay with 30%. Pinot Noir is the most planted variety in the region, with 38%. Pinot Meunier grows in colder areas where Pinot Noir and Chardonnay struggle. When added to the blend, Pinot Meunier adds a fruity-spicy aroma profile to the wine.
Aromatically, Pinot Meunier is similar to Pinot. Dark fruits, such as blackberries, cassis, and black cherries, are easily detected in the nose and palate. Red fruit scents, including raspberries and sweet cherries, as well as the scent of roses, lavender, truffles, and mushrooms, are familiar.
On the palate, wines made with Pinot Meunier are medium-bodied and delicate, with medium tannins providing a soft and harmonious impression.
Temperature and maturity
Pinot Meunier thrives in cooler climates and loves clay-rich soils, unlike Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which prefer limestone soils. You’ll find the harshest climatic conditions in Champagne west of the region’s unofficial capital, Reims, in the Valle de Merne, where Meunier is king. Because Pinot Meunier sprouts later and matures earlier than Pinot Noir, it does better in cold vintages.
The Blanc des Noirs Trend
Champagne comes in various styles. The famous Blanc de Blancs is made exclusively with Chardonnay, but the lesser-known Blanc de Noirs is often a blend of Pinot Noir and Meunier. Interestingly, 100% Pinot Meunier sparkling wines are trending and are gaining recognition for their unique personality. Rosé Champagne also often relies on Meunier for its inky color.
A perfect pairing
Sparkling wines made with large amounts of Pinot Meunier go well with poultry, such as roasted chicken, duck, or turkey, as well as grilled pork. The wine also pairs nicely with mushroom-based recipes, such as a vegetarian mushroom stroganoff. Pair Meunier-heavy wines with traditional Thanksgiving fare such as turkey and roasted fall vegetables.
Fun facts about Pinot Meunier
- Meunier is a French word that means “miller,” as in flour miller. The grape has a powdery look that resembles fine flour.
- 80% of Meunier plantings are found in France, most of them in Champagne.
- Experts have promoted using the name Meunier instead of Pinot Meunier after DNA testing showed the grape might not be related to Pinot Noir after all.
- Meunier is an early budding but also early ripening variety, making it ideal for Champagne’s unpredictable weather during harvest.
Outside of France, sparkling wines
After Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Meunier is the most popular variety in wine regions specializing in sparkling wine made with the traditional method, especially in England, the USA and Australia. Hampshire, Sussex, and Kent, known for their cold grape-growing conditions, appreciate Meunier’s resilience and often champion it over other varietals.
Key dates in Pinot Meunier’s history
1800s: Pinot Meunier was first used to make Champagne.
1995: Clos d’Ambonnay (Blanc de Noirs) by Krug is the first 100% Pinot Meunier Champagne.
Want to read more? Try out these books!
Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavours. Jancis Robinson 2012
Wine. Years. People. Events. Massandra Wine Collection 2010
The World Atlas of Wine: 8th Edition. Johnson, H & Robinson, J. 2019