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Home | Red Varieties | Pinot Meunier - The Secret of Champa . . .

Pinot Meunier - The Secret of Champagne

Seldom seen as a grape variety listed on a wine label, Pinot Meunier (PEE-noh muh-NYAY) has played a supporting role in many blends including one of the most famous of all - Champagne.  Derived from the notoriously genetically unstable Pinot Noir, Minot Meunier is a member of the Vitis Vinifera family and traces its roots to the mid-16th century.  Its name, Meunier, comes from the French (Meunier)and German (Muller) which both mean miller, a reference to the flour-like powdery white dust on the underside of its leaves (think Dusty Miller). 

The most common use of Pinot Meunier is in the making of Champagne.  Meunier as it is called, is a late budding, early ripening grape which makes it the perfect complement to grow in the cooler regions of Champagne.  Pinot Meunier adds body and fruit aromas to its partners Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Although less common, Meunier is also vinified into still red wine in cooler regions such as Germany, New Zealand, and the Okanagan Valley in Canada.  In Germany Pinot Meunier is called Schwarzriesling, Müllerrebe, or Muller Traube.

Where does Pinot Meunier Grow?        

France - Pinot Meunier is widely planted in France primarily in the Champagne region and the surrounding Departments of Aisne and Aube.   The short growing season requirements allow nearly 40% of all the vineyards in the northern Champagne appellation to be planted with Meunier.  The greatest concentration of vineyards is located in the cooler Vallee de la Marneare.

Germany - Unlike its neighbor to the south, German Meunier is frequently vinified as a still red wine labeled as Schwarzriesling, Müllerrebe and Müller-Traube.  These reds are rich with cherry and blackberry along with Meunier's telltale smokiness.  The most common German Meuniers ranges from dry, (Trocken) to  off-dry (Halbtrocken), and are produced in the State of Baden-Württemberg.

United States – A very few adventurous winemakers in the United States have vineyards of Pinot Meunier.  The California Wine Institute's 2011 Acreage Standings by Variety report shows a meager 204 acres of Meunier vineyards, the grapes from which are used primarily to produce sparkling wines.  Still, single variety offering do exist however, the most notable being Domaine Chandon, and occasional offerings from August Briggs, LaFollette, and  Bouchaine.

Rest of the World – Meunier is also grown in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Austria.  The role of Meunier in most of these locations is in sparkling wine production although still and rose wines are produced in very limited quantities e.g. Brightwater Gravels, New Zealand Pinot Meunier Rose.

Pinot Meunier Style

Pinot Meunier's principal role is in the production of sparkling champagne where it contributes aromatics and fruity flavors to the wine.  In the Touraine and Orleans regions of France, small quantities of Meunier are vinified in the traditional “Vin Gris” style yielding a rose blend. 

If you are fortunate enough to find a single variety Pinot Meunier, you will likely notice a wine of lighter color than Pinot Noir, slightly higher acidity, lower in tannins, and rich in fruit aromas.  The aroma profile frequently contains strawberry, raspberry, cherry and an overtone of smokiness.  Most Meunier however, is not considered age worthy so early consumption is in order.

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