The west of the Champagne region has for a long time been a bit of “no man’s land”. Large houses sourced mediocre quality grapes to help bulk production. However, recently, as with so many places throughout Champagne, the recent generations of growers have shown a renewed vigour in expressing the true capabilities of their own specific terroirs. Christophe Mignon is one such example based in Le Mesnil-le Huttier, a village in prime territory for growing Meunier in the Vallée de la Marne. Meunier, also known as Pinot Meunier, draws its name from the French word for miller, in reference to its flour-like dustiness that appears on the underside of its leaves.
It has long been the ‘poor cousin’ to the noble Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the region, but in the right hands, has demonstrated its potential and full capabilities. Christophe’s approach to demonstrating the full capabilities of his vineyards focus on not just biodynamically driven viticulture but also phytotherapy, homeopathy and geobiology practices. All work, in both the vines and the cellars, is done in accordance with the stages of the moon.
The Pur Meunier (meaning “pure Meunier”) is a blend from the villages of Festigny and Le Breuil, both known for their Meunier production, with an average age of 45 years for the vines which is well above average for Champagne. Each parcel of grapes is vinified individually and kept separate until blending for bottling the following year to see the unique characters of the plots and how they can be best expressed through his Champagnes. It spends around 3 years on lees, which is the legal requirement for vintage Champagne and almost twice the average length for most non-vintage Champagnes. This results in a complex and textural expression whilst still retaining Meunier’s characteristic fruit driven nature. Being a Brut Nature means that no sugar is added at dosage, as Christophe does not wish to mask the quality of the grapes with which he works.
The future of Meunier shows a lot of promise and potential, with Christophe Mignon amongst the top flight of its producers.