For me, one of the most exciting aspects of launching My Wine Canada has been discovering new Canadian wineries and sampling their unique wines.
I recently had a chance to try the 2012 Pinot Meunier from Thornhaven Estates Winery in the Okanagan Valley, BC. A grape I knew little about, Pinot Meunier is one of the three main varietals traditionally found in Champagne, where the spotlight tends to shine on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. In fact, when Pinot Meunier does make the headlines, it’s most often to draw attention to the fact that it never makes the headlines. As Eric Asimov mentioned in the NY times a while ago, “… Pinot Meunier is often a humble afterthought, if it’s given any thought at all.” Keep in mind this is a grape that represents over 40% of all plantings in the Champagne region of France!
Pinot Meunier is a cool climate black grape that produces lighter coloured wines than Pinot Noir, but with slightly higher acid levels. It is instrumental in adding body and richness to Champagne and is known to bud late and ripen early. As a single variety still wine, it is most popular in Germany where it ranks third in terms of production after France and the United States.
Thornhaven’s Pinot Meunier is a great find. A semi-opaque but vibrant ruby in colour, with aromas of butterscotch and fresh ripe fruit, it smells wonderful and luscious. The wine is fruit-forward and tempered nicely with a graceful balance of acidity and soft tannins. You’re left with a wonderful wine to pair with spicy meat dishes or to enjoy on its own.
Champagne producers usually prefer to tout the noble varieties, though I can’t help but think of Pinot Meunier as the Cinderella grape, doing a lot of the grunt work behind the scenes and waiting for her chance to shine.
Fortunately, “shine” is exactly what happens under Thornhaven’s care.