Pinot Meunier (historically just Meunier) is a dark-berried grape variety most famously used in the Champagne blend. It is a clonal mutation of the Pinot group, therefore sharing the same DNA fingerprint as Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and other Pinot derivatives.
Less highly acclaimed than its partners Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier is something of a quiet workhorse in Champagne. The word Meunier is French for "miller", and refers here to the "floury" appearance of the underside of the vines' leaves.
Pinot Meunier tends to be planted in areas too cold for the other two. It is widely used as an insurance grape against poor vintages as it buds later, ripens earlier and is more accepting of cooler mesoclimates.
In the vineyard, the variety is prone to stunted growth of vegetation. Therefore, it is best suited to sites well protected from damaging winds and frost pockets. It tolerates a wide range of soil types and prefers sunny slopes that maximise sunshine hours.
The fact that Pinot Meunier matures more quickly than Pinot Noir makes it ideal to help soften non-vintage Champagne wines in their youth. However, on its own, Pinot Meunier does not age well. It is prone to fall out of balance if not supported by its Champagne stablemates. Consequently, it is less common for high proportions of Pinot Meunier to be used in vintage Champagne.
Very few varietal Pinot Meunier wines are commercially produced and are regarded as something of a curiosity by most consumers. They are typically lighter in color than Pinot Noir, but has acid levels that are slightly higher. The wines typically taste of confected fruit and occasionally with slightly smoky flavors.
Where is Pinot Meunier grown?
In 2016, France reported 12,130 hectares (30,000ac) of the variety, accounting for approximately 80% of Pinot Meunier in the entire world. Outside of the Champagne, it is found in the Loire Valley as well as Moselle, albeit in dwindling quantities.
In Germany, it is grown under its synonyms Schwarzriesling, Müllerrebe and Müller-Traube. Here, red and rosé wines made from the variety are somewhat more common. The Württemberg region makes a local speciality called Schillerwein, a crisp light pink wine. However, Pinot Meunier has only recently begun to be used in any scale in German sparkling wine production.
Carneros AVA is the Californian centre for Pinot Meunier, although it can also be found in mulitple other AVAs throughout America. While it has a long history in Australia, it is grown extensively only within the Grampians region of Victoria.
Synonyms include: Meunier, Gris Meunier, Farineux, Noirin Enfarine, Mullerrebe, Muller-Traube, Schwarzriesling, Dusty Miller, Miller's Burgundy.
Popular blends include: Champagne Blend, Pinot Meunier – Pinot Noir.
Food pairings for Pinot Meunier wines include:
- Tuna rillettes
- Salt and pepper squid
- Prawns steamed in banana leaves