This late budding and early ripening red variety, while once planted extensively throughout northern France, is today almost exclusively used in the production of Champagne. In Champagne’s two or three varietal blend, Pinot Meunier adds lively fruit. Chardonnay adds brightness and Pinot noir is appreciated for structure and weight. Pinot Meunier has acidity levels higher than in Pinot noir, making it a prized choice for Champagne growers. It thrives in cool north-facing vineyards and is able to withstand damp or frost-prone valleys. Not surprisingly, it does well in Germany where it goes by Müllerrebe or confusingly, Schwarzriesling. You can also find it in other cooler climate wine zones such as the German-speaking Switzerland, Austria and even Victoria, Australia.
Though we don’t often see it bottled on its own, there are a handful of California and French producers—pretty much anywhere sparkling wine is made—who do. As a red wine, it is light bodied and light in color, but with a bold nose of cocoa, espresso, black cherry and smoke. Sweet spice and red berry fruit back up the firm structure in a Pinot Meunier.
WillaKenzie Estate Pinot Meunier 1998Pinot Meunier from Willamette Valley, Oregon