This is the first post in a series on grapes that are either a type that has been tried in a blended wine, but are difficult to obtain as a standalone example or lesser known varietals in general. Since most people have an idea of Chardonnay, Cab Sauv, Pinot Noir (thanks Sideways), and Riesling, I thought it might be interesting to profile a few of the other wines you might be able to find as an opportunity to expand your palate if you get a chance.
Pinot Meunier is the other red grape used in the production of Champagne. In fact, it accounts for roughly 40% of the total plantings of vines in that region. The two “noble” grapes of Chardonnay (found alone in Blanc de Blanc) and Pinot Noir (found alone in Blanc de Noir – usually. This can also have Meunier as Cresta has explained) have long overshadowed the humble Meunier. If you have tried all three type of Champagne and not found the same sharpness or acidity in either of the sole varietal versions, what you are noticing is the Meunier. American and Australian bubbly producers also grow Meunier to help produce an offering closer to the traditional Champagne.
The flavor when produced alone produces a jammy wines with moderate acidity and low tannin. It makes a very nice drink now wine that usually doesn’t need a large amount of time to open up. There are very few producers who make a still version of Meunier and even fewer who make a sparkling version. Chandon, Eyrie, Wilakenzi, and Bouchaine are a few of the wineries who produce a still version. Chandon is usually available in Kentucky and Ohio. The rest might need to be a special order from you local wine store or a direct order from the winery. The only sparkling version of Meunier I have had was at the 2012 Cincinnati Wine Festival. It was imported by Terry Theise can called Aubry Brut, sadly that is the extent of my notes on that selection.
Personally, I enjoy the sharpness of the Meunier on its own. It provides a balance lending towards acidity with enough tannic structure to make a nice wine that is easily paired with lighter foods. If you get the chance to try one of these, take it. Especially if you like Champagne or want to taste one part alone from the others to try and see if you can tell the make up the next time you try some bubbly.
Thanks to Alphonse at DEPS Fine Winne, Kevin at Party Source, David at Water Tower Fine Wines, and JP at Party Town for their help with this article. Please support your local wine shops and any of these four folks will be more than happy to help you find some unusal wines if you stop in and see them.
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