Stunning German Pinot Meunier from Kurt Darting

This offer is available from Friday, 19 April 2024 to Monday, 22 April 2024, or as supplies last.
First come, first served on all wines. All wines are sold through Solo Vino Wine Shop in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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Hi everyone!

This week’s offer is short and to the point, for we are currently in Paris getting set for the first Art Vine Voyage tour of 2024! We kick off Sunday morning in Bordeaux and it’s going to be great. Don’t forget that we’re doing another Art Vine Voyage tour in September, and we have three spots left for that one.

This is the perfect wine to learn about Pinot Meunier

Pinot Meunier is the lesser-known “third grape” of Champagne, behind the better known Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. But it’s actually the dominant grape by acreage in the Champagne region, and is a beautiful wine on its own.

Pinot Meunier is described as below by the book Wine Grapes, which is THE authoritative book when it comes to all things about grape varieties. Many of you have heard me say this before but I’ll forever say it again … this is a MUST OWN book for all wine lovers out there. It’s an investment, don’t get me wrong! It’s also a wonderful book to have in electronic format. I love whipping out my cell phone on a whim to read up on a grape I’ve never heard of while sitting in a café in Europe. It’s one of those simple exercises that was literally impossible twenty years ago.

From the book Wine Grapes:

Early budding and ripening, though it generally buds later and ripens earlier than Pinot Noir and is therefore less prone to winter frosts and coulure and more reliably productive. Favours rich clay soils but also well suited to calcareous soil, showing little susceptibility to chlorosis. Susceptible to grape moth and botrytis bunch rot.

Pinot Meunier makes more obviously fruity, earlier maturing wine than does Pinot Noir – although varietal versions are relatively rare, for its wine is most commonly blended with Pinot and Chardonnay base wines for sparkling wine.

France grew 11,088 ha (27,387 acres) of Meunier in 2009, making it the tenth most planted red wine variety (and the second most widely planted in the Champagne region after Pinot Noir), even though the word Meunier is hardly ever seen on a French label.

It was once widely planted in the far north of France but is now chiefly found, and valued, in Champagne, particularly in the cooler north-facing vineyards of the damp and frost-prone vineyards of the Vallée de la Marne. Not only does it fare better than Pinot Noir on such sites but it also tends to have higher acidity yet can achieve comparable sugar levels, making it a good blending component with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It is said to contribute youthful fruitiness but not longevity and few growers prize it enough to make a varietal Meunier-dominated wine. Notable exceptions include Françoise Bedel, Egly-Ouriet, Georges Laval, Michel Loriot, Jérôme Prévost and, notably, Krug, which long favoured the inclusion of Meunier in their highly regarded blends.

So why seek out German Pinot Meunier?

Germany is in the start of a red-wine renaissance as you read this very sentence. The Germans have always loved their red wines, but for generations it was just too cold to grow red/black varieties there.

Enter global warming.

This is something we don’t talk out loud about too much in the wine world, but global warming has been good for some grapes and some regions. One of those is the red wine category and Germany. Out of the blue, Germany is now the number three producer of Pinot Noir in the world, making truly stunning wines that on the highest end are rivals to the best of Burgundy (yep, you heard it here first … I’ve been lucky enough to try some of these wines and I stand by my statement, but we won’t see them available in America for at least ten to twenty years. Two reasons: the Germans are drinking them up themselves; and there is no established belief yet in America that Germany can make truly world-class Pinot Noir).

Anyway, back to our little Pinot Meunier here in this offer.

Kurt Darting

Helmet Darting in the wine tank, and a map showing the Pflaz valley as an extension of Alsace, France.

From the importer:

Though Darting has a history of grape growing dating to 1780, it was not until 1989 that the winery began to sell all of their grapes as wine under their own label. The family also maintains a highly regarded vine nursery, selling their grafted vines throughout Germany.

Vineyards in the hills around Bad-Dürkheim are prime sites, planted on south facing slopes of marl and chalky limestone. Current winemaker Helmut Darting is a protégé of famed winemaker Hans-Günter Schwarz, having completed his studies with a practicum at Müller-Catoir. You can see this influence in the reductive winemaking techniques Helmut employees at the winery. He believes firmly in minimal-intervention winemaking as he feels that “every time you handle a wine, you diminish it.” These practices include fermenting as slow as possible at a cold temperature in stainless steel, using only natural yeasts, and avoiding the introduction of oxygen in the winemaking process. Red wines are fermented on their skins in stainless steel and then transferred to large oak casks. The only time the wine is handled after the first racking is to finish the wine by bottling. Resulting wines preserve the original grape character and showcase the outstanding vineyards they hail from.

The Darting family grows in a little patch of Germany just north of Alsace, in the Pfalz, which is quickly establishing itself as a promising home for both Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

As you can see, I enjoyed a glass before I took the photo!

About this wine

I’ve always wanted to start a Champange class by first tasting non-bubbly Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier side-by-side, before moving onto three Champagnes that are dominant or 100% of each of those grapes. But I’ve never been able to find a Meunier that was both affordable and delicious.

Until now.

This wine is OUTSTANDING, showcasing the aromas and flavors that make Pinot Meunier far more intriguing that most wine drinkers give it credit for. The aromas are very forward, presenting fresh raspberry galore along with mellow earthy spice and a touch of dried fall leaves. The earthiness that Meunier brings to the wines of Champagne is evident in the Meunier-heavy Krug Champagne, which smells of terroir and rising bread dough.

The wine is light bodied, elegant, and serves best with a slight chill. It’s a perfect spring and summer red, with more complexity and detail that the ‘chill and crush’ reds that are all the rage (and often great fun, don’t get me wrong. This particular wine, though, is a bit more serious).

Food pairing ideas via Wine-Searcher (which are always spot on):

  • Tuna rillettes
  • Salt and pepper squid
  • Prawns steamed in banana leaves

Note those food pairings! All are seafood! I’d also add to the list grilled pork tenderloin, beef brisket, and mushrooms with risotto.

Happy shopping, and thank you again for supporting what we do!

Jason Kallsen
Sommelier and founder/owner of Twin Cities Wine Education

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