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Spotting the Varietals: Champagne Blend – Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay

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Champagne Blend

Have you ever wondered what goes into the making of the most celebrated drink – Champagne?

A large part of Champagne production is about blending, whether in the types of grapes, the source of grapes or in the vintages.  Most Champagne is made with wine from a number of vintages. In a good vintage, however, a Champagne could be made with grapes of the same vintage and hence be coined as a vintage Champagne.

Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, usually collected from a variety of villages, make the classic Champagne blend.

About a quarter of vineyards in Champagne is planted with Chardonnaywhich performs best on the Côtes des Blancs and on the chalky slopes south of Epernay. Being relatively simple to grow, it produces lighter, fresher wines than typical Chardonnay and gives finesse, fruit and elegance to the final blend. It is the sole grape in Blancs de Blancs, which are some of the most intense long-lived Champagnes produced.

Next Pinot Noir accounts for nearly 40% of the plantings in Champagne, planted across Champagne and particularly so in the southern Aube district.  Pinot Noir is the backbone of most blends, givingthe Champagne its body, structure, strength and grip.

The final component is Pinot Meunier which constitutes nearly 35% of the plantings. Thanks to its resistance to spring frosts, Pinot Meunier is favored in the frost pocket Marne Valley. It ripens welleven in poor years and tends to soften with fruit the more assertive flavours of Pinot Noir. Pinot Meunier is generally viewed as the weaker of the three grapes given its low ageing potential.  Nevertheless many premium Champagne houses such as Krug still include a material amount in their final blends.

In summary, Chardonnay typically contributes stone fruit, apples and citrus fruit to the blend while Pinot Noir and Meunier can add body and more red fruit such as redcurrants and sour cherries.  That is why sometimes you can smell red berry note from a white Champagne!

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This entry was published on December 11, 2012 at 1:14 am. It’s filed under Spotting the Varietals and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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