Thursday, January 1, 2009

Pinot Meunier, The Unsung Hero in Champagne

Pinot Meunier, a mutation of Pinot Noir, is to many an unknown grape varietal. However, for Champagne making it is almost essential. I say almost because as a general rule the grapes used in making Champagne are the white Chardonnay grape and the dark red Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are known as noble varieties and are often more emphasized than the Pinot Meunier in Champagne making. In Champagne Pinot Meunier contributes a certain body and richness, yet until recently many makers denied any of it in their blends. Some say it is because of it's lack of aging potential and others say it lacks the elegance of the other two grapes. Interestingly enough though it is the most widely planted grape in the esteemed Champagne region at 35-40%. Pinot Meunier grows better in the cold Northern climate of Champagne than Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.

You will rarely see Pinot Meunier as a single varietal still red wine. I was fortunate however to discover Domaine Chandon (known for their sparkling wine) produces one. It has become one of my favorite wines. I like it because of it's smooth sophistication, flavors of cherries and rhubarb. My most recent food pairing with Pinot Meunier was with my Slow Cooker Maple PumpkinTurkey (see last post for recipe). It would also pair well with duck or pork.

I really do believe that this grape is misunderstood and hope it gets the respect it deserves some day.

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