Sunday, December 09, 2012

In praise of Pinot Meunier.

I really don't need an excuse to drink bubbly (although conveniently, Christmas began early for me).  It's just wine, and should be enjoyed whenever one wants it - it just has bubbles.  I love it.  Anytime. Well, to be quite honest, I do not love blanc de blancs.  I am just not a fan of 100% Chardonnay bubbly.  But I could quite quickly become a fan of 100% Pinot Meunier bubbly.
A red grape variety and a member of the Pinot family, Pinot Meunier (PM) is considered the least important of Champagne's three main grape varieties, although it is more widely planted than either Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. PM and Pinot Noir make up about 72% of all Champagne's vineyards, both grapes contributing two thirds of the blend in non-vintage Champagnes.  Particularly well suited to Champagne's cool climate, PM does particularly well in the north-facing, sloping vineyards of the Marne Valley.  In Napa, PM is exclusively grown in the Carneros AVA where it is relatively cool compared to the rest of the valley.
Sometimes called simply Meunier (which is French for miller, a name that comes from the flour-dredged appearance of the underside of the leaves, a result of copious amounts of fine, white hairs), there are very few known clones of this cultivar.  Indeed, a mere 6 clones can be found at the Foundation Plant Services at UC Davis.  A vine of moderate to high vigour, PM has several advantages over it's appellation-mates;  the ability to bud and ripen more reliably than Pinot Noir, less prone to frost damage, less prone to coulure, less susceptible to powdery mildew than Pinot Noir and not as susceptible to Eutypa lata as Chardonnay. And acid levels in PM are usually more elevated than in Pinot Noir which lends a youthful fruitiness to wines made with this particular grape, balancing the weight of Pinot Noir and the finesse of Chardonnay.
The Mumm PM, a winery exclusive, was lovely, all floral-yumminess and fruity-yeastiness.  What a great glass of bubbly!  I must drive up to the winery and purchase more before Christmas. Apparently, there is one downside to bubblies made from PM: they are said to age quicker and are not as long lived as some other Pinot noir and Chardonnay based wines. So?  Sounds like a good excuse to drink them quicker.  Hic!


New Hampshire Wineman said...

Nice pedagogy, V-girl!
If, or should I say when I do a post on PM, I'll definitely link to this post, since that's what I do on the technical aspects of wine.
Thank you,

Thomas said...

I must admit that I don't think I've ever tasted a straight PM sparkler. Maybe the time has come.

Vinogirl said...

NHW: Link away!
I was just looking at the Napa County Crop Report for 2011. PM doesn't even merit a place on the list, but is instead, I assume, bundled in with the 'Other Blacks' of which there are approx. 150 acres. Must be a tiny amount as Carignane is listed for having a mere 8 acres planted.

Tomasso: I'd recommend this one, but it is a winery exclusive. Of all the big Champagne Chateaux, only Krug extol the virtues of PM and use it liberally in their blends.

Thud said...

You always tell me off for keeping champagne too log so drink up.

Vinogirl said...

Thud: I did...and then I found out today that the PM is sold out! It's a shame, it was very nice.