Of the three classic sparkling grape varieties, Pinot Meunier – one of the most widely planted – has traditionally been the lesser known of the trio, letting its comrades Chardonnay and Pinot Noir bask in the spotlight when it comes to their still expressions.
“It’s the most widely planted variety that nobody talks about,” jokes Charlie Holland, Head Winemaker at Gusbourne. With a few notable exceptions in France and California, finding Pinot Meunier as a single-varietal bottling takes some commitment. Until recently.
Here at Gusbourne, we’ve relied on our own high-quality Pinot Meunier to give bright fruit character and freshness to our sparkling Brut Reserve and Rosé since 2006. But after enjoying near perfect conditions in 2020 – warm spring, dry summer, early flowering – this quietly powerful grape made Charlie and his team consider it in a fresh light. There was something different in that year’s Meunier – the potential for trying something new.
“We’d never made a 100% Meunier before, mainly because conditions meant it didn’t have the kind of ripeness to stand on its own. Until 2020 – it was a really exceptional year and we knew that when we started testing ripeness levels for our still red Pinot Noir.” Same story for some of the Pinot Meunier blocks, which Charlie says were “racing ahead” with good acidity levels. He and Chief Vineyard Manager Jon Pollard looked at the data and decided to go for it. “It looked like it was going to have the legs to get the acids to drop and the sugars to come up, which we’d never really seen with Meunier before that year. So we left it out for a bit longer to encourage that ripeness – we knew it would develop into something really interesting.”
What’s developed after time in tank and on cork is a still red wine of exceptional character. A delicate, pale garnet colour in the glass, this wine shows beautiful red fruit on the nose with cherry, cranberry and raspberry notes. Fresh and balanced on the palate, the bright red fruits persist, alongside an earthy spice note and lingering minerality. Soft, delicate tannins lead in to a focussed, elegant finish.
Pinot Meunier 2020 is an ideal match with duck, lamb or seared tuna thanks to its elegance and fruit, with the freshness and acidity to handle richer dishes.
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