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Jan 1, 2009 05:44 PM

TN: Two Champagnes for New Year's Eve

Lynn and I joined a group of friends at Lalime's in Berkeley for New Year's Eve -- I'll post on the meal itself on the San Francisco Bay Area board. See

We began our evening with a bottle of:

n.v. Egly-Ouriet Brut 1er Cru “Les Vignes de Vrigny,” Vignes de Pinot Meunier (Champagne, France): This is a rare Champagne from many points-of-view, but specifically because it is produced exclusively from Pinot Meunier grapes, from 40+ year old vines grown in the village of Vrigny. (Note: only Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay grapes are used in making Champagne, and Pinot Meunier is definitely the “minor” player in the trio.) The wine spent 40 months aging en tirage, and was disgorged in November 2007. Pale gold in color, with a greenish tinge, the wine displays a tiny bead and lively mousse; the bouquet is quite pronounced, with yellow plums, raspberries, and light spice, and accented with toasted brioche and a hint of chalk; the wine is round on the palate, very dry, with firm acidity; the flavors are rich, with good plum and raspberry fruit and spice; the finish is crisp, with good length. Very fine indeed.

And we ended our evening by welcoming 2009 with a bottle of:

n.v. Egly-Ouriet Extra Brut “Viellissement Prolongé” Grand Cru, Vignes d'Ambonnay, Bouzy, et Verzenay (Champagne, France): This wine is a more traditional blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier, all from the Grand Cru villages mentioned above. It spent 58 months on the yeast, and was disgorged in May of 2007. The wine is a pale gold in color, tinged with green at the rim; there is a fine bead and quite lively mousse; the bouquet is more austere, with chalky notes, minerality and yeasty brioche up front, combined with floral notes, lemon peel, and hazelnotes; on the palate, the wine is very dry, very focused and very high in acidity, wth chalk, mineral notes, roasted hazelnuts and baked apple and apricot fruit; the finish is crisp, dry, and tart. Excellent.

Cheers -- and Happy New Year,

1329 Gilman, Berkeley, CA 94706

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  1. Seems like Pinot Meunier is the dirty little secret of Champagne. While it's reputation is that of a "minor player', it is in fact the most widely planted variety in the AC.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Sam B

      Yes, in a sense it's a bit like Merlot. There is more Merlot in Bordeaux than there is Cabernet Sauvignon, and yet most people think of red Bordeaux as being synonymous with Cabernet . . .

      Here, however, what's unusual is to have a Champagne that s 100 percent Pinot Meunier.

    2. --
      (Note: only Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay grapes are used in making Champagne...)

      Almost always true, with the only exception I know of being the Aubry 'Le Nombre d'Or' which uses Fromenteau, Petite Mesling, and Arbanne, the three near extinct grapes in Champagne, and, as mentioned in the Skurnik catalog, 100% Arbanne by Moutard.

      page 45 of catalog, page 50 of pdf.

      4 Replies
      1. re: mengathon

        Agreed. These three are rarely if even mentioned (let alone used), because new plantings are forbidden -- just as, in Burgundy, you always say that the wines are Pinot Nor and Chardonnay, and ignore the other varieties. Yet, although one cannot theoretically put in new plantings of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Melon, they're there! ;^)


        1. re: mengathon

          the Thiese catalog is a lengthy but always worthwhile read...

          1. re: mengathon

            These wines - (there are actually two wines called "Nombre d'Or" from Aubry, the "Campanae Veteres Vites" as well as the "Sable Blanc des Blancs") - are actually phenomenal, in case anyone was unaware. There are also small, but "present" amounts of these old varietals in the NV cuvee and possibly the rose as well.

            Although I wasn't aware, as Jason pointed out, that new plantings are forbidden, I do know that the old laws conscripted 'pinot,' simply, as permitted - alas Pinot Gris (Fromenteau), Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Blanc, etc. - in addition to Petit Meslier and Arbanne.

            1. re: mengathon

              i have to add for interests sake, selosse and billiot, just a few of the smaller producers doing something unique like adopting the solera system for their wines. really cool stuff