Pinot Meunier Grape Variety & Wine Profile
Pinot Meunier is the ultimate Jan Brady: it’s always overlooked. It is, however, the secret behind Champagne, and it’s also bottled as a still wine under several aliases like Meunier and Schwarzriesling. In fact, it most recently has been termed only Meunier throughout Champagne which is an indication that this name will replace Pinot Meunier in the future.
Although a mutation of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier is known for adding bright fruit to Champagne blends. Its name – Meunier in French – means “miller”, which is a reference to a flour-like dustiness that appears on its leaves.
Since it isn’t often bottled as a single varietal, it can be a little tricky to nail down. It’s a high-acid, cool-climate grape so it tends to yield lighter and fruitier wines. One the nose, expect bing cherry, raspberry, strawberry, minerality, and forest floor. On the palate, the berry notes are braced by acidic zip with a dusting of earthy, mushroomy notes. When blended in Champagne, it adds in that fruitiness and aromatics to Pinot Noir’s depth and Chardonnay’s richness. Interestingly, blanc de noirs Champagnes tend not to be 100% Pinot Meunier because they do not to hold up to long distance travel as well as Pinot Noir-blended versions do. Pinot Meunier is often compared to Gamay due to its light and bright nature. Consider it the more quaffable Pinot than Noir is.
Food Pairing Pinot Meunier
Pinot Meunier pairs well with poultry – think roasted chicken, duck, or turkey – or grilled pork. For vegetarian dishes, it works well with mushroom-based recipes like a vegetarian mushroom stroganoff. It would be the perfect wine to work with traditional Thanksgiving meals based around turkey and roasted fall vegetables.
Wine Growing Regions for Pinot Meunier
Pinot Meunier is prevalent throughout Champagne and makes up about 40% of plantings there. Since it’s actually a mutation of Pinot Noir, it is often debated whether it should be considered a varietal on its own, but at this stage, it warrants individual consideration since it is grown and valued separately from its ancestor. Outside of Champagne, it is a minor planting in the nearby Loire Valley where it is most often blended in to make sparkling wines.
Beyond France, Pinot Meunier can be found in Germany where it’s known as both Müllerrebe (‘müller’ means miller so it’s also a reference to the dustiness on its leaves) or Schawrzriesling. The latter is misleading because it means ‘black Riesling,’ but it is not related to Riesling at all. Within Europe, Pinot Meunier can also be found in Austria and Switzerland, neither of which are surprising since their cool climates tend to mean they cultivate grapes similar to those of German and cooler parts of France.
Among New World wine producing regions, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and California have all seen experimentation with Pinot Meunier. With trends learning towards lower alcohol wines, Pinot Meunier is gathering a little cult following that predicts more experimentation in the future.
Check out some of these Pinot Meunier and Pinot Meunier-based blends from around the world:
- Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé, Champagne, France
- Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve, Champagne, France
- Weingut Darting, Pfalz, Germany
- Heitlinger, Baden, Germany
- Best’s Great Western Old Vine, Victoria, Australia
- Keep Wines, Yount Mill Vineyard, Napa, California
- The Eyrie Vineyards, Oregon
Written By Jamie Metzgar
Jamie Elizabeth Metzgar began her career in wine by pouring in a tasting room on the East End of Long Island, NY. After moving to New York City, she landed a position at Chambers Street Wines where she was encouraged to pursue wine education at the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET). She earned Level III certification there and has since earned California Wine Appellation Specialist and Certified Specialist of Wine certifications as well. After way too many moves, she has recently landed in Northern California where she is compiling an unofficial roster of dog-friendly tasting rooms.
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Pinot Meunier Tasting Notes
One the nose, expect bing cherry, raspberry, strawberry, minerality and forest floor. On the palate, the berry notes are braced by acidic zip with a dusting of earthy, mushroomy notes.
The Structure and Style of Pinot Meunier Wines
Sugar Dry | Off-Dry