When it comes to champagne grape varieties, three stand out. It is Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. They grow in 99% of the vineyards in the French Champagne region. But there are four other grape varieties. Even if they are rarer, they are just as interesting.
Pinot Noir is very well-known by people who are used to taste some of great champagnes in the world. As a matter of fact, this French grape variety is the most planted one in the Champagne region. It grows on more than 32,000 acres of rich vineyards. Pinot Noir is a delicate black champagne grape which offers a structural and a mouth-filling texture to the juice.
Chardonnay is a French white grape variety. It occupies more than 25,000 acres in the Champagne region in France. It provides champagnes a delicate and refined smell which reminds of floral and citrus notes at the same time. Notice that Blanc de Blancs is made from 100% Chardonnay.
This grape vine was used as a blending grape but some champagne houses have started to make 100% Pinot Meunier champagnes. The grape can be recognized by its indented leaves covered with white hair. This champagne grape variety gives fruity notes and bold aromas to sparkling wines.
This grape variety is from Alsace and related to Pinot Noir. It requires delicate care and pruning because of its large berries. Pinot Blanc is known for tis floral and sweet notes. It also provides the champagne with an interesting acidity.
Particularly present in the Burgundy region since the Middle Ages, this champagne grape variety is a mutation of Pinot Noir. It stands out with its brownish-pink, black or white color. Pinot Gris is very sweet with an intense fruity nose.
Petit Meslier is quite close to Chardonnay with its light-colored grape. It has the particular ability to resist the cold. Nevertheless, it is very sensitive to disease. That is why it is more complicated to grow. Because of its racy acidity, it is only used in a small quantity in champagne. Its vegetal flavors may remind of Sauvignon Blanc.
To date, Arbane is certainly the rarest champagne grape variety. It grows on only 2,5 acres in France. Its light-yellow grape has a low yield, which makes it even rarer and more prestigious. Some champagne houses use Arbane to add rustic herbal notes to their champagnes. Click here to know more about wine and champagne.