No one is more serious about Meunier than Michel Loriot. Mr. Loriot farms 17 and ½ acres of vineyard in Festigny, a picturesque village in the Western Valley of the Marne to make his all estate Champagne and the native Meunier is his most planted grape variety. While many of the big houses will talk down the quality of Meunier it is the only one of the big three varieties (the other two being Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) that is indigenous to Champagne and in the right hands it is capable of top quality.
One thing that one hears a lot about Meunier is that it is a nice grape for getting some fruit flavors in a blend, but no good for ageing. This is a myth. Houses like Krug use a lot of Meunier in blends that last for generations, and anyone that has had an old bottle like the ones in the picture above will not need convincing. It is true that Meunier can taste better young than Chardonnay or Pinot Noir in Champagne, but that does not mean that it can’t keep! Tasting the two 1964’s from Loriot, one disgorged in the 1970’s and one disgorged that morning, is an experience I’ll never forget. The old disgorgement was deep gold, and full of dried apricot fruit and fall leaf-pile aromas. It had very full body, sweet fruit in the mouth and great leathery complexity. The freshly disgorged bottle, which received no dosage, was many shades lighter in color and much brighter and lighter in the mouth, but still very complex. Both were among the greatest Champagne’s I have ever tasted- period. Just thinking about them now gives me goose bumps… It was impossible for me to pick a favorite between the two.
While old bottles like this are not available for sale, Mr. Loriot’s top wine in current release leaves very little to be desired. I had the 2007 Michel Loriot "Monodie Meunier" Extra Brut Champagne ($49.99) earlier this week with a parmesan cream risotto that I made at home. Mr. Loriot loves the combination of parmesan with this old vine Champagne for great reason, and the risotto brought the electricity and vibrancy of this big, structured wine to the forefront. He calls this wine monodie because it comes from one plot, a small south facing, mid slope filet called the l’Arpent. This vineyard was planted back in 1942, and is the only vineyard I have ever heard of that was planted during the 2nd world war in Champagne. These shy baring, old vines give a wine with subtle pear fruit and the 7 years of ageing on the lees give a frame of fresh baguette aromas. This wine is concentrated in the mouth, with plenty of minerality as well as body, but it finishes very dry- it is dosed at just 5g/l. Every fan should try this great wine once.
His normal range is fantastic as well- the Michel Loriot "Authentic" Brut Champagne ($29.99 750ml, $64.99 magnum, $16.99 half bottle) is an extroverted, fresh Meunier style that is aged for three years on the lees and contains 50% reserve wines. I love the pie crust aromas and rich mouthfeel of this Champagne- especially since it is married to a crisp, dry finish. He also makes the best off dry Champagne, that we carry, the Michel Loriot "Marie-Leopold" Sec Champagne ($34.99), which I did a feature on here.
I hope you will join me in drinking some of these great Champagnes!
A toast to you!