Few will have ever tried a Blanc de Noirs made of Pinot Meunier. Despite its relatively light alcohol, there is some weight and creamy mouthfeel to this wine. While not intensely aromatic, there are intriguing red fruit notes mixed with pear and a whiff of chalky minerality. The palate has an unexpected richness and some of those red berry notes come through. There is fine-seamed acidity to balance the mouth feel. Fruit-driven and dry, but ripe with a long finish of fresh stone fruit and apple.
Known predominantly as the most planted variety in Champagne, Pinot Meunier brings an abundance of fruitiness to the blends of this renowned sparkling region. The dark-skinned Meunier possesses wonderful acidity and low to moderate levels of alcohol. Despite its ability to blend well in sparkling wines, it is also vinified into still wines, mostly in Australia. In addition to Champagne, you will find significant plantings in California and Germany.
Elham Valley is an unspoilt seam in the North Downs of the county of Kent, where the contours of the land, the climate and the soil could scarcely be improved upon for viticulture. The intensely lime-rich chalk soil forms part of the same chalk ridge that stretches from southern England to the French Champagne region and on to Burgundy. The English climate may be marginal for viticulture but its relative austerity—where expertly handled—and long, cool ripening period are ideally suited to creating still and sparkling wines with pure variety flavours, elegant acidity and subtly sophisticated aromas.
Simpsons Wine Estate is located in one of the sunniest corners of the British Isles. Proprietors Charles and Ruth have further safeguarded their vines against extremes in climate by selecting sloping vineyards that face almost due south, ensuring heat accumulation in the day, and excellent cold air drainage at night. The maritime influence is also crucial to the success of these vines. The property is less than eight miles from the coast on three sides, which helps insulate the fruit against intense variations in temperature. The vineyards sit on chalk, the same soil found throughout the Champagne region of France, allowing fantastic drainage, particularly important in a country like England.
Pinot Meunier grapes (clones 791, 977 & 978) from the Roman Road vineyard were hand-picked and carefully whole-bunch pressed. The juice settled for 48 hours before racking and then underwent a long, slow primary fermentation using aromatic yeasts followed by full malolactic fermentation. The wine spent two months on fine lees prior to bottling in Spring 2020.
Owned and operated by Ruth and Charles Simpson, this English wine estate was established in 2012 and officially opened its doors in 2016. Ruth and Charles have a long and successful history in the wine industry. For 17 years, their Languedoc estate, Domaine Sainte Rose, has crafted award-winning wines from that region’s warm, sunny climes. Their British roots brought them back to the southern slopes of England to fulfill the enormous potential of the region for making elegant, cool-climate wines, both still and sparkling. Their two vineyards are located in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, overlooking the gently-undulating English countryside. This one of the sunniest corners of Great Britain. The region’s lime-rich, chalky soils and moderate climate are similar to that of Champagne and Burgundy, making grape selection an easy choice; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier dominate plantings. The long, cool ripening period here means that the best wines exhibit pure varietal flavours along with elegant acidity and a complex character. These vineyards are planted almost exclusively on south-facing slopes, ensuring that grapes reach full phenolic and sugar ripeness each year and are protected from the area’s fierce winds and spring frost.