I could write forever about the pinot noir grapes in champagne.
For a long time I suspected I might be a closet red wine lover masquerading as a champs fan because most of my most beloved champs were high pinot noir grape blends.
As I’ve said before, every house uses a particular and standard blend of the grapes for its NV wines, like a signature recipe. The house style will generally be high chardonnay, high pinot noir, or evenly balanced with pinot meunier to blend (it is unlikely pinot meunier will dominate).
Once you start tasting more champagne and consider the grape proportions in each wine, you should start to identify your preference.
Understanding the flavours imparted by the grape varieties
I tend to think of the three grapes as sitting on a spectrum from…
- dark fruits and rich character at the pinot noir end through to…
- light fruits and bright, fresh character at the chardonnay end
- and pinot meunier occupies the middle ground.
Pinot noir grapes in champagne
The lion’s share of grapes produced in Champagne are pinot noir… about 38% of all grapes grown in Champagne. And these are mostly grown in the Montagne de Reims and the Côte des Bar (brush up your regions here).
A lot of experts describe the pinot noir in champagne as giving it vigour, complexity, fullness, or strength. A brash, crass Aussie who is certainly not an expert might say they think it gives the wine its backbone … or its balls (yes, that’s me!)
To talk senses, pinot noir grapes in champagne offer flavours like strawberries, raspberries, cherries, blueberries, and blackberries. On the spectrum of colour these are the darker, red, black or blue fruits which bring its deeper, richer, heavier characteristics.
Homework assignment #Champagneschool
What’s a good champagne to test your champagne sensory superpowers?
If you want to look for pinot noir grapes in champagne, the pinot-iest house I can think of is Bollinger (I just made that word up). The Bolly blend is 65% pinot noir (with 10% meunier and 25% chardie). Bollinger is also fermented in oak which strengthens its richness with oakey, vanilla tones.
Veuve Clicquot NV blend is also high pinot… 50-55% pinot noir (with 15-20% meunier and up to to 33% chardonnay)
Blanc de noirs
And if you really want to taste pinot noir grapes in a champagne, you can try a blanc de noirs. Blanc de noirs are 100% pinot noir grapes. Not as common as blanc de blancs, they are making a bit of a splash, particularly amongst growers.
When it comes to trying this style, I would start with a recommendation from someone who knows the style as it is quite niche and you are just as likely to not enjoy it and taint your feelings towards the style.
I’ve tried several including Egly-Ouriet, Andre Clouet and Canard Duchene Charles VII blanc de noirs. Well-acquainted with the more traditional styles, I have a way to go on my blanc de noirs journey.
Pinot Noir grape fast facts
- Pinot Noir grapes are the earliest to ripen…
- And the highest in sugar…
- They have the thickest skins…
- And they are best suited to south or south-west facing aspects.
Santé my champs lovers, Sante
Make sure you post a pic and tag @bubbleandflute #Champagneschool to let me know you’re doing your homework and what you think!
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