In this blog series, we are rediscovering some of the “forgotten” grapes and wines of France. My last articles covered Mourvedre and Cinsault. This article covers Pinot Meunier, Champagne’s under-acknowledged stepchild.
Pinot Meunier (“little miller”) grows in the Champagne region in northern France, where it is well equipped to handle the cold temperatures of the region.
Pinot Meunier derives its name from the white floury coat often seen on the underside of the leaves.
This light red wine is one of three wines used in making Champagne. The other two are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Champagne is called Blanc de Noir when Pinot Noir is the only varietal used, and Blanc de Blanc when Chardonnay is the only varietal used. Yet, even in blended Champagne, Pinot Meunier never appears on the label! Why the top-secret treatment, leaving it off the playbill? First, there is no such thing as 100% Pinot Meunier varietal Champagne. Second, the other two Champagne grapes are “noble” grapes. While Pinot Meunier has been around since the 1600s, and is more widely planted in the Champagne region than Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, it is typically thought of us just another mutation of Pinot Noir.
The good news is that Champagne producers are finally beginning to acknowledge this under-appreciated ingredient, recognizing its contribution of body and richness, as well as brightness and fruitiness.
Pinot Meunier has high acidity, low tannin and low color. It is a wine that needs to be drunk young. Its short life span, coupled with its lovely complementary attributes and high demand as a blending wine, makes this zesty, red very difficult to find as a standalone still (non-sparkly) wine. If you do find a standalone still Pinot Meunier, according to tree.com, you’re likely to find “a dry, fruity wine with a slightly bitter taste. Its color is light red or rosé, and the crisp wine has an acidic tone and a slight smokiness. It is a medium-bodied wine with a strong aroma of alcohol.”
While Pinot Meunier is grown primarily in the Champagne region of France, it is also grown in limited quantities in Australia, Germany, California and Oregon.
Tree.com recommends the Pinot Meunier made by Domaine Chandon in Yountville, CA. I couldn’t resist looking on their website. Here is what I found: “The wine opens with bright fruit aromas on the nose lead by dominant notes of Santa Rosa plum, hibiscus and hints of cola nut. On the palate, the wine is mouth watering, deliciously fresh and approachable, as flavors of raspberry, boysenberry, and a trace of briar and juniper are carried on supple tannins for a sexy, satisfying texture.” Gotta love that description! Domaine Chandon recommends pairing the Pinot Meunier with olives, hard cheeses, burgers, grilled vegetables or creamy polenta.
If you’ve tried Domaine Chandon’s Pinot Meunier, or another winery’s Pinot Meunier, please share your experiences with us here.
As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!
Betty Kaufman, WineShop At Home
Thank you for highlighting this stepchild grape. But there are most certainly 100% pinot meunier Champagnes. I have such bottles from Julien Chopin (NV) and Alain Bedel (2011) on hand at this very moment, and I know there are quite a few others. I can’t say whether this is a a trend that has appeared only after this article was written, but they are definitely bottled and available in France (I have not shopped for them in the US).
Good to know! I’ve never come across a 100% Pinot Meunier Champagne. I will definitely be on the lookout.
Thanks for exploring Pinot Meunier here, Betty. I appreciate all the content that you’ve shared here, and I’ll make sure to credit you when I include this content in my paper. I hope I can do that.
Thank you so much. I learned a lot when I wrote this article. Pinot Meunier was very new to me.
Should a Pinot Meunier be served chilled? My neighbor is a wine maker her in Napa Valley and gave me a couple of bottles, drank one last night with a spicy shrimp dish, it was pleasant! What do you recommend pairing it with? Thx LT
I would serve Pinot Meunier at 60 degrees. So it’s good to put it in the fridge for 15 minutes before drinking it.