Introducing August's Wine of the Month - our Classic Pinot Meunier Tumbarumba 2022. Sounds like Moon-yay and is Pinot Noir’s lesser known relative - Pinot Meunier is having its moment in the sun. Recently rated 95 points by the Halliday Wine Companion 2024, we are shouting its virtues to all and sundry this month.
It has a rich history. Hailing from the Champagne region of France, Pinot Meunier has long been used alongside Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to make the most famous sparkling wines in the world. It’s often called the ‘workhorse’ of Champagne, delivering mouthfeel and driving fruit characteristics. It doesn't age quite as well as its famous counterparts, so it has been somewhat overlooked as a still red wine in the past. A mistake if you ask us.
Pinot Meunier has been in Australia for a long time. In fact, Bests has the oldest planting dating back to 1868 which is still producing to this day. Really good Pinot Meunier, from great Australian regions, has an almost cult-like following. It’s a wonderfully kept secret among the wine drinking clicks, but its recent accolades mean it’s stepping into the spotlight.
So why Pinot Meunier and not Pinot Noir? They share similar characteristics, but where Pinot Noir is a fussy, diva-like plant - Meunier gets on with the job. It thrives in cooler climates, and is more robust than Pinot Noir. Meunier bursts later and ripens early, making it somewhat protected from spring frosts. It’s perfectly suited to Tumbarumba cool climate and takes advantage of the high sunlight hours with cool summer evenings. Tumbarumba also imparts a distinctive earthiness to the wine that matches the bright fruit notes and makes our wine a stand-out.
Meunier is the French word for ‘miller’, named for the downy hairs on the leaves, making the plant look like it has been dusted in flour. It is actually a Chimera - a genetic term meaning it's an organism with more than one set of DNA in its make up. The inside of the cells are actually genetically identical to Pinot Noir, but the outer layer has a mutation that makes it distinctly Meunier. It’s what makes the plant slightly smaller and causes the fine white hairs that are its calling card.
The Hungerford Hill Pinot Meunier delivers lashings of bright fruit, lifted by a gentle acidity that makes the aromas almost rush up your nose. Red licorice, wild strawberries, ripe cherries. It's a beautiful ruby hue, quite elegant and refined. The earthy tones of Tumbarumba burst over the palate alongside lip smacking red fruits. It's actually very delicate although the intensity of flavour is certainly there.
Pinot Meunier is slightly more acidic and delicate than Pinot Noir, so it makes for a somewhat controversial food pairing - Sushi! Specifically, sushi with salmon or oily fish. The neutral flavours and rich texture of salmon sushi pair perfectly with this delicate wine. It allows all the fruit to shine, while the wine's acidity provides a delicious counterpoint to the rich texture of the sushi, keeping everything in balance.