When it comes to the grapes that make up Champagne, you hear a lot about Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. And not so much about Pinot Meunier. Considering still wines, the former duo is justifiably famous. (Hello, Burgundy.) Both have plenty of household recognition as well.
But I like to root for the underdog. That’s why I decided to look further into Champagnes made with the Pinot Meunier grape.
Pinot Meunier Champagne
As far as its presence in Champagne, when you consider the numbers it’s a bit of a misnomer to call Pinot Meuneir an underdog. It’s actually more widely planted in the region than Chardonnay, and not too far behind Pinot Noir. But folks just don’t know much about it because it rarely gets a starring role.
So for the November issue of Wine Enthusiast, I got in touch with a couple producers making 100% Pinot Meunier Champagnes as well as David Speer, owner of Ambonnay, a Champagne bar in Portland, Oregon, to help understand the appeal of the grape and what you can expect in the bottle. There’s also a list of selected producers making Pinot Meunier Champagne. Read about it here:
I also recently went to Champagne on a press trip with the Comité Champagne. Before I talk wine, one of the highlights was a post-dinner stroll back to the hotel. At the gorgeous Reims Cathedral, we stumbled upon a light show taking place on the building, with accompanying music. Here’s a short video:
Pretty wild, huh? Ok, let’s talk bubbles.
Here I am right before lunch at Louis Roederer, with a glass of rosé Champagne. (Note that I am not drinking out of a flute.) Later we moved on to a magnum of Cristal 2002. One theme of the trip was producers’ 1.5L love. (I’m into 1L love, BTW.)
They feel it’s the vessel best for aging Champagne as it has the cork size/opening of a standard 750 bottle but twice the wine. (I know that’s some real “duh” math but hold on….) So there is double the liquid yet the same amount of air space in a magnum. As oxygen exposure causes a wine to age more rapidly, a big bottle, with a greater liquid to air ratio inside, ages more gracefully. (Same goes for still wines.)
One producer liked to call regular bottles “half magnums” as a tongue-in-cheek way to reinforce the primacy of the 1.5L.
More: I spied a yellow pug statue.
Amphora sighting at Larmandier-Bernier.
I toured the caves of G.H. Martel and learned this is how you used to get in and out.
I got a tip from my guide at G.H. Martel to eat at this old-school spot. Inside is decorated with all kinds of motorcycle and race car memorabilia, mostly posters. They wheel a chalkboard menu to your table, which is cool and kind of intimidating but very handy for pointing and ordering. Managed to fumble my way through a request for the set menu which featured a shredded carrot salad, beef stew, and sorbet. I also successfully requested a beer. Yes, I ordered a beer in Champagne.
I visited Bérêche et Fils, which has this idyllic garden outside of its tasting room and production facility. Also got to taste a still Chardonnay that was exceptional.
Hi, thanks for reading to the bottom.
If you’re still curious about Pinot Meunier, I recommend this post from Elaine at Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews. She is probably the world’s #1 fan of Pinot Meunier.
Elaine highlights Champagnes, naturally, but also some fascinating still red wines made from the grape.
Get your geek on!
Oh and if you need a book about the world’s finest sparkling wine, find a copy of David White’s But First, Champagne.
You can check out a bottle from a unfamiliar producer, pour yourself a glass, and then flip to their profile and start learning.
And, of course, the front section of the book has all the history and general knowledge you crave.