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Pinot Meunier

Pinot Meunier

For a long time, the classic Champagne grape Pinot Meunier (pronounced pi-no moon-yay) has played a distant third fiddle to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the wine’s two primary varietals.pinot_meunier


However, the grape is on a bit of a roll lately, getting some love and deserved attention from media and winemakers.


So what’s it appeal?


Though lesser known to most wine drinkers, Pinot Meunier is actually among the most widely planted grapes in France.  It is popular in Champagne as, in that cool climate, it will bud and ripen more reliably that Pinot Noir.


In addition, the grape adds body and richness to the wine, which tends to be lighter in color and more acidic.  While Champagne made with Meunier benefits from the grape’s aromas and fruitiness, it also is less age-worthy than Champagne made with Chardonnay and/or Pinot Noir.


A handful of French vignerons are reveling in the grape’s virtues, making Champagne predominantly or even exclusively from this grape.


Domaine Rene Geoffroy crafts two wines – the Elixir and Expression – that each have 50% Meunier.  These wines are silky and stylish, with notes of pear, hazelnut, and a touch of citrus.


The esteemed Egly-Ouriet crafts a 100% Meunier dubbed “Les Vignes de Vrigny” for the town where the vines grow.  The wine shows notes of licorice, mint, flowers and pear, with a bracing minerality to back it all up.


At Mousse Fils, nearly 80% of their vineyards are planted with Pinot Meunier and their “Special Club Brut” is made exclusively from the varietal.  It packs a combination of power and elegance, with notes of currant, cherry, licorice and dried strawberry.


Winemakers across the pond hardly have a monopoly on this grape.  A handful of American winemakers craft wine with this varietal as well, though their focus is on still, dry wine, not bubbly.  Among them are:


Long Island’s Duck Walk is the only winery on the East Coast to produce a still, dry wine exclusively from Meunier.  The wine is light-bodied with fleshy notes of raspberry and a touch of smokiness.


River Road sources their fruit from the Russian River Valley, crafting a wine with lots of depth and style.  This version is more old world in style, with notes of blueberry, ginger and spice.


Novy Family Wines – owned in part by Adam and Dianna (Novy) Lee of Siduri Wines –  also makes a still Meunier that’s big and bold with notes of raspberry fruit.


And, at sparkling wine estate Domaine Chandon, their Meunier is still, not bubbly.  It also shows the wine’s fruity flavors of cherry and raspberry with hints of earth and oak.


Pinot Meunier is related to Pinot Noir so it’s no surprise that the wines pair with similar foods.  Pinot Meunier – still or sparkling – has a particular affinity for pork and shellfish, but also works with blue cheese, charcuterie and short ribs.


Versatile and delicious.  What’s not to love?

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