Pinot Meunier; food pairing.

Pinot Meunier or Schwarzriesling compared to Chardonnay or Pinot Noir is in the Champagne the underdog. 30% of the Champagne region is planted with the grape, it is planted in areas where it is too cold and the soil is not necessarily suitable for either Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. It buds later and ripens earlier than the other grapes, thus is a bit of a bread winner in poorer vintages.

Used as a blending element, Pinot Meunier brings body and freshness to champagne when young without interfering with the more elegant and prominent aromas the other two grapes bring to a blend. Pinot Meunier does not age well, so is not suitable for cellaring; there are however exceptions. Some producers, who have older plants and take great care of their vineyards produce some interesting examples, Bedel and Dehours are two names I would strongly recommend.

 

Pinot Meunier on its own is best drunk with food. It lacks the energy for it to be an invigorating appertif. Aromatically it goes through to phases, when young red fruit notes come to the fore, cranberries, raspberries, cherries, with age it becomes more savoury, with dominant meat, sous-bois, smoke, mushroom, truffle aromas. It lacks the tannin of Pinot Noir but has more acidity, which makes it a good partner for roasted meats and poultry, also fatty meats, try spare ribs or sausages from the grill with for instance the rosé from Laherte freres; it also works well with cured hams, Parma or Pata Negra or grilled tuna steaks. With cheese there are numerous possibilities, Reblochon, Langres and even Vacherin Mont d'Or work.

In the picture, baked Vacherin Mont d'Or, the cheese is encircled with puff pasty filed with mashed potatoes with herbs. This traditional dish from the Jura is usually when finished, garnished with cured ham, ours is a vegetarian variety. We drunk an Dehours & Fils Lieux Dit "La Croix Joly" Oeil de Perdrix Extra Brut 2011, surprisingly one of the best champagne food pairings of last year.