“Twenty, 30 years ago, everyone was speaking about Champagne as a blend[ed] wine,” says Jérôme Dehours of Champagne Dehours & Fils. But today, more producers are relying on a single grape variety to make distinct bottlings. And one may surprise you: Pinot Meunier.
Though Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are by far the best-known wine grapes in Champagne, Pinot Meunier is well represented in the vineyards. It accounts for 32 percent of plantings in Champagne, slightly more than Chardonnay (30 percent), but less than Pinot Noir (38 percent).
Especially prevalent in the Marne Valley, “Meunier is the identity of the region we are in,” says Dehours. “It is the identity of the domaine.”
A primary reason for Pinot Meunier’s large presence in the Marne is that its bud break occurs later than in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, making it less prone to frost damage. Although the grape is expedient to the local conditions, winemakers are also fascinated with what Pinot Meunier can do when given a starring role in Champagne.
“Meunier is the identity of the region we are in. It is the identity of the domaine.” —Jérôme Dehours
“Our common goals and aspirations are to see it finally recognized in and by itself, not just as a grape variety to use in traditional Champagne blends,” he says.
So what can you expect from Pinot Meunier Champagne? David Speer, owner of Ambonnay, a Champagne bar in Portland, Oregon, says that while terroir and winemaking play an influence, the wines tend to be soft and supple in texture.
Select Producers Bottling Pinot Meunier Champagne
Speer says that the range of flavors in Pinot Meunier Champagne—including white flowers, herbs (in a good way), blueberries, spices, earth and meaty notes—is a “fascinating mix of sweet, savory and spicy tones.”
With the rise in popularity of grower Champagnes, Taillet believes that producers who bottle Pinot Meunier alone are capturing some of that excitement.
“Indeed, consumers today are turning to grower Champagnes because they are attracted [to] a soul, a typicity, a signature,” says Taillet. “The 100-percent Meunier cuvées are the result of this interest.”