To celebrate International Pinot Meunier Day we look at this lesser-known of the three permitted grapes in Champagne. The other two grapes are of course chardonnay and pinot noir.
- What is Pinot Meunier?
Pinot Meunier is a dark berried, high-acid, cool-climate grape which has leaves with a floury appearance as if they had been dipped lightly into flour on the underside.
- At least 500 years old
Pinot Meunier records date back to the 16th century.
- What does Pinot Meunier mean?
Just as with Pinot Noir, the word Pinot comes from French word Pineau, which is a diminutive of the word “pin” meaning pine. The reference to Pinot is because the grape clusters look like black pine cones. Meunier on the other hand means “miller” which is a reference to the white flour like appearance on the underside of Pinot Meunier leaves. The English even call the Pinot Meunier grape Dusty Miller!
- Any other names?
Pinot Meunier is also known by at least 40 other names .
- You’ve likely had it without knowing
Pinot Meunier is one of the three main grapes permitted in the making of Champagne, alongside Pinot Noir and chardonnay. In fact there is more Pinot Meunier grown in Champagne than of either of the other two champagne grapes!
- A chimeric mutation of Pinot Noir?
Ampelographic studies suggest that Pinot Meunier may be a mutation of Pinot Noir. Studies have concluded that Pinot Meunier is “a chimaera, with the phenotype of Pinot Noir (which it is, varietally speaking) altered by the lack of gibberellin responsiveness in the outer layer“.
- The oldest vines in the world are here in Australia!
Vines of Pinot Meunier like many other grape varietals were wiped out by the phylloxera outbreak, which Australia largely managed to escape. Therefore the vines planted in 1868, by Henry Best of Best Great Western in Victoria, are the oldest still existing Pinot Meunier vines in th world!
- Favoured by champagne house Krug
A favourite of Champagne house Krug for its long-lived prestige cuvees while many champagnes with a considerable proportion of Pinot Meunier are not seen as having as much aging potential as Chardonnay or Pinot Noir dominated champagnes.
- Not just champagne
While Pinot Meunier’s most frequent use may be in the making of Champagne, it is also used, but rarely, to produce single varietal wines around the world. Best’s Great Western mentioned above was the first Australian winery to produce a single varietal Pinot Meunier, which they named Burgundy Miller back at the time (when the use of the name Burgundy was allowed)
- Pinot Meunier in France
Today, Pinot Meunier’s home is France’s Champagne region. While it was once found across the Northern half of France, today outside of Champagne, lessening quantities of Pinot Meunier are found in Orleans and Touraine in the Loire Valley and the Cotes de Toul and Moselle regions..
- Pinot Meunier in the world
After France, Pinot Meunier is most cultivated in Germany and the United States of America. It is also planted in German-speaking parts of Switzerland, in Austria, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
- Pinot Meunier in Australia
Wine Australia’s Annual Vintage Report registers just shy of 800 tonnes of pinot meunier crushed in 2019, with the bulk concentrated in:
• the King Valley in Victoria,
• the Yarra Valley in Victoria, and
• the Adelaide Hills in South Australia,
- International Pinot Meunier Day 2022
International Pinot Meunier Day is observed annually on 16th December. Share your Pinot Meunier on social media with the following hashtags #pinotmeunierday and feel free to also tag us @matildamarseillaise_en on Instagram or @matildamarseillaise on Facebook so we can see what you’re drinking
- Favoured by champagne house Krug
INTERNATIONAL PINOT MEUNIER DAY RECOMMENDATIONS
Ashleigh Huggins recommends Champagne Dehours – Terre de Meunier Extra Brut NV for International Pinot Meunier Day 2022.
Dehours Champagnes are eagerly sought after by champagne enthusiasts for their renowned ‘Meunier style’; bold, flavourful and demonstrating a clear terroir-orientated approach. The cuvée “Terre de Meunier” is a blend of selected vineyards of Pinot Meunier from different villages such as Mareuil-le-port, Troissy and Oeuilly. A low addition of reserve wine makes it pure and vibrant. Jérome Dehours advocates for richer champagne styles which are also lively and vibrant. To do so, he began a perpetual reserve of wine in 1998 to best capture the terroir identity of his Domaine without vintage influences.
How does French Pinot Meunier differ from Australian Pinot Meunier?
As the third grape of the Champagne region it is much lesser known than Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. A select few winemakers of Champagne have learnt how to hone this varietal over the years in the cooler regions less favoured by the other varietals. Bringing fruit intensity and an element of roundness to the blends there is less ageing capacity in this grape across all countries. Contrastingly it is able to stand alone in the very minimal production of still red Meunier in Australia as lighter and fresher wines are favoured without the need or patience for ageing.
Why is Pinot Meunier not as well known in Australia – many wouldn’t know it is one of the main champagne grapes?
The silent partner in the Champagne trio, it is also not overtly produced in Australia. This may be due to a few elements such as its affinity to being turned into sparkling wine, and almost every country’s production of sparkling wine comes second to Champagne’s fame. For the smaller production of table wine made from Meunier there is very few regions that attempt this still red wine and with favoured grapes such as Merlot and Pinot Noir in Australia there is less desire to try a new varietal.
What would you pair this Pinot Meunier with?
Oysters, charcuterie platters, panned mushrooms with roast chicken, and sushi are the best pairings or simply as an aperitif. We also suggest drinking this Champagne in a large white wine glass to receive the best drinking experience.
Have you had Pinot Meunier before? What’s your favourite single varietal Pinot Meunier or champagne with Pinot Meunier.
Happy International Pinot Meunier Day!
See also the below articles about French wine varietals