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Wine of the Week: Pinot Meunier Champagne!

Mon Mar 16, 2009

Pascal Cuvee Emeric

It’s almost impossible to write about Champagne without the excessive use of exclamation points. It’s like the bubbles themselves invade your speech, making each word sparkle with lyrical effervescence. And yet, until I started working for K&L, I didn’t really like Champagne. I found the mousse distracting, the bread-dough yeastiness uninteresting and the hangovers unbearable. But then our Champagne buyer, Gary Westby, introduced me to small, grower-producer Champagnes, like the Franck Pascal Cuvee Emeric, and my opinion of the bubbly stuff changed completely.

The Cuvee Emeric is one of K&L’s direct imports, a wine we get straight from the producer, which means that it’s an incredibly good value ($54.99), something that those of us on a limited budget or feeling the crunch of today’s economy can surely appreciate.  It may not be inexpensive, but it’s worth every penny for a special occasion. Moreover, this beautiful sparkler is made from Pinot Meunier, a grape I knew nothing about before I started at K&L. Most Champagnes are made from Pinot Noir (Blanc de Noir), Chardonnay (Blanc de Blanc) or a combination of the two. You’ll occasionally see cuvees where Meunier is a significant part of the blend, but 100% Pinot Meuneir Champagnes are rare, which is another factor that really sets this wine apart. The Meunier gives the Champagne a distinctive mushroomy-earthy quality that I love, and it has more pronounced acidity, which makes it a great companion to a meal and more age-worthy.

The wine, though it’s not labeled vintage, comes entirely from the 2003 vintage, and all of the fruit comes from just one vineyard, planted to uncloned vines (yet another rarity!). Like I said before, it’s aromas tend to the Chanterelle end of the spectrum with hazelnut undertones, pain grille and a hint of fresh sea air. On the palate, the wine has yuzu, apple and Camembert flavors with a creamy, soft mousse that fills your mouth.The wine builds in complexity with air, which always makes it quite moreish, as Gary would say.

The only problem with the Cuvee Emeric, frankly, is that I want to keep drinking it. And I have a one-glass-of-Champagne rule, no matter how good it is. Oh well, it means I’ll have to share it with friends. Time to toast the launch of the pet website my fiance has been working diligently on for the past six months. Welcome Cute as Hell and bon chance!

Cin Cin!

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4 Responses to “Wine of the Week: Pinot Meunier Champagne!”

  1. susan Says:

    i love champagne but i rarely drink it since it’s expensive. i am really interested to try this pinot meunier champagne though! sounds delicious and i want to try more smaller producers.

  2. Leah Greenstein Says:

    Let me know if you need some recommendations! K&L, where I work, has a number of affordable grower/producer Champagnes that won’t break the bank. And they ship.

  3. jacki Says:

    i’m working on a paper about pinot meunier. every other website i’ve consulted has said that it has less aging potential. just so you know…..

  4. Leah Greenstein Says:

    Thanks for your feedback, Jacki. I took your comment to the Champagne buyer where I work (K&L Wine Merchants) and here’s what he said:

    All of the big houses claim that Meunier won’t age- yet one of Champagnes most famously cellar worthy houses- Krug, uses a good dollop (they won’t confess to how much) in their vintages. I have had Rene Collard Champagnes from 1969, 1964, 1961 and even 1953 that are over 90% Meunier and still very fresh and young. Jose Michel (father of Bruno Michel) also makes examples that show well at over 40 years old. There are many other examples of small producers in the western valley of the Marne making age worthy Meunier based Champagne.

    The big problem for Meunier is a self fulfilling prophecy: The big houses claim that it is second rate, no doubt because it is indigenous rather than nobly Burgundian (not a mutation of Pinot Noir as once thought) and pay growers less money for it. The growers respond by only planting Meunier to sites where Chardonnay and Pinot Noir have no chance of succeeding- flatter, higher frost prone sites- certainly not there best land. Meunier will often throw quite a big crop, and since premiums are rarely paid for quality (unlike Chard and PN) they let it go crazy. When the big houses receive this already less than perfect fruit, they throw it in stainless steel, put it through malolactic to soften its already short acidity and then they say “Meunier can’t age.” Of course their Meunier can’t!

    It is very different for a grower who is making his own wine. He will decide what to plant based on what will make the best wine from the land that he has, not fetch the best price for the grapes. The answer to this question almost always includes more Meunier. When grown on a good site, pruned properly and vinified carefully (most of the best examples I have tasted have been without malo in wood), I believe it is as capable of greatness and longevity as Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. The good bottles are in stock to prove it:

    2000 Bruno Michel Cuvee Clement Blanc de Noir Brut: 100% Meunier and perhaps our youngest tasting vintage Champagne.

    1990, 1985 and 1985 Rose from Rene Collard: Still going strong… Perhaps even young yet!


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