Pinot Meunier

Meunier is one of France's most planted black grape varieties, not that you would know it. It's the 'sleeper' in a wide host of wines, the most famous of which is Champagne, where, alongside Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay.

It makes up a classic, naughty threesome. As reds go it's a very tart, acerbic grape, but that makes it ideally suited to champagne (when it's pressed, like Pinot Noir, for champagne, the juice is run off and the skins discarded, so no coloration occurs). Principally, it's used as a solid support base to the more attractive and overt qualities of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and its acid nature helps give the champagnes it forms part of a certain ageing potential.

New World producers of fizz looking to compete with champagne are beginning to use this more and more, and so it is finding increasing popularity in areas of Australia and New Zealand .

Pronunciation: Pee-no muur-nee-ay.

Where do I find it? Champagne, Mosel, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand .

What does it taste like? In its pure form it has an almost raspberry fruit flavour, though it can be quite tough, tannic and overly acidic. But you'll find it more often than not in champagne, where it provides the bite and a slightly sweet, red-berry fruit touch.

Tell me something I didn't know: As grape names go, it doesn't sound the sexiest, but, compared with the German name for it, Schwarzriesling, it doesn't sound too shabby.

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