Champagne made from 100% red grapes, especially Pinot Meunier, has always been my favorite, though they have always seemed difficult to find. I was delighted when I was invited to a tasting of Champagnes that included several made from the Meunier grape.
The invitation said: “An association of 9 Champagne producers has joined together not to create a specific blend in common but to underline the value of Pinot Meunier, an under-appreciated grape, by clearly articling its sensory and flavor profile and linking its authenticity to the Marne Valley.”
I do not know of any of the big Champagne Houses that makes 100% Pinot Meuner
At the tasting all the wines contained Pinot Meunier. Some were 100% Pinot Meunier, others a blend of Meunier and Pinot Noir, and some a blend of Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. I decided to concentrate on the wines made from 100% Pinot Meunier. Meunier is named for the downy white underside of its leaves that seem to have been sprinkled with flour. Meunier means “miller” in French, and is a term used for some things that involve flour, an example is the classic “Sole Meunier.”
The Pinot Meunier vine has medium sized roundish shaped leaves with five lobes (five parts of the leaf), and a lyre-shaped petiolar sinu (lower part of the stem). The berries tend to be smaller than Pinot Noir (8 to 12 millimeters and grow in relatively small, tight bunches). Meunier does well in poor, limestone-laden soils, but does best in the richer, clay-heavy soils of the Marne Valley. It is the second most planted grape (32%) in the Champagne Region. Pinot Noir is first.
Champagne André Hecq Gault Millau Extra Brut 100% Meunier (Blanc de Noirs) from reserve wine: 40% 2009 and 60% 2010. Dosage 4g/l. Fermentation is in stainless steel. Malolactic fermentation takes place. The wine remains on the lees for four years. This is Champagne with good structure, minerality and hints of apple and pear.
Rosé De Saignée 2012 100% Meunier. Vinification saignée maceration (bleeding). I believe this is the only winery that makes a Rosè using this method. Grapes from a single parcel L’Etau 50 year old vines. Malolactic fermentation takes place. This is Champagne with hints of red fruit, raspberries and strawberries.
Champagne Eric Taillet “Bansionnensi“ Extra Brut 100% Pinot Meunier-Blanc de Meunier. Grapes are from the Marne Valley, Binsonnois lot and the average age of the vines is 25 years. The soil is clay and limestone. Sustainable viniculture, with grass growing between the rows, no chemical weed killer is used. Application on foliage is of pure algae and certified organic oligo elements.
Traditional Dollat type wood press is used. There is an extraction and fractioning of press juices and natural must settling. Thermoregulation fermentation is at 65F. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. The wine matures on the fine lees. The wine is aged for 36 months. Dosage 4g/l, 2004 vintage base wine and cane sugar.
Champagne Serveaux Fils 100% Pinot Meunier, 50% from 2013 and from 2014 50% Grapes for the Cuvée Meunier d’ Antan from Passy sur Marne and Barzy sur Marne. Average age of the vines is 40 years. The soil is limestone. Alcoholic fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks and the reserve wines are aged in barrel for 7 months. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. Dosage 0g/l (Brut Natural) The wine is aged for 30 months.
Champagne Roger Barnier-Cuvée Meunier composed of 100% Meunier from the 2012 harvest. It is a blend of 5 old plots- 1910 to 1956. Hand harvested, grapes are pressed in small batches and vinification is by plots. Only the first press is used, “The Cuvêe.” Blended and matured in oak casks and bottled in March of 2010 with corks. Second fermentation is done at a low temperature. This is a well structured, complex and elegant champagne with full fruit aromas and flavors.
Météyer Pere & Fils Exclusif (Blanc De Meunier) 100% Pinot Meunier from the vineyards Tré sur Marne- Vallé de la Marne. Age of the vines is 65 years and the soil is clay and limestone. Harvest is by hand with sorting on the vine. Automatic press is used. Vinification is classic and traditional and malolactic fermentation does not take place. There is a minimum aging of eight years on wooden laths. It is a Brut Natural- Dosage Zero. It is fruity, complex, full bodied and intense with hints of citrus fruit, honey and almonds.
Champagne Demiére Egreg’Or “Brut 100% Meunier. Fleury La Riviére, subsoil chalky sand with different levels of shells. Harvest 2010 by hand with a selection of the best grapes. Traditional vertical press: Coquard. Téte de Cuvée. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. Dosage 9g/l with the addition of their homemade liqueur. This is champagne with fine bubbles, a delicate form and a complex bouquet with hints of apricots, peaches and a touch of honey.
Solera 23 100% Fleury la Riviére and Damery. The soil is clay limestone with deep marl and the average age of the vineyards is 35 years. It is a Cuvée. Traditional wine making, without malolactic fermentation taking place in order to preserve the grape’s natural acids. Solera Method which has been implemented over the last 20 years, is usually used as a blend base. Dosage 7g/l. This is a full-bodied champagne with hints of ripe pears and figs with a touch of toasted almonds.
Champagne Roger-Constant Lemaire Select Réserve Blanc de Noirs, 100% Pinot Meunier from the Marne Valley. The soil is a mixture of limestone and clay and the age of the vines is 35 years. The grapes are harvested by hand with a strict selection of the grapes. Treated with Norwegian kelp within the context of environmentally responsible wine production. There is a long fermentation at 16C in temperature controlled stainless tanks. Only the juice from the first pressing is used. A late racking takes place in February. Malolactic fermentation does not take place and there is no filtration or fining. The wine is aged for four years.Dosage Brut- Extra Brut(4 to 8g/l) Dosage liqueur is 100% estate produced using pure cane sugar, aged in oak barrels.
In my experience, Champagne made from 100% Meunier can go with a wider ranger of food then those made from blends.