The varieties of grapes used in producing a Champagne help determine its style. Today, there are three grape varieties that make up the majority of Champagne production: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Champagnes can either be single-varietal or a blend of varieties.
According to recent CIVC data, Pinot Noir is the most grown grape in the Champagne region and makes up approximately 38% of what is grown. Pinot Meunier accounts for 35% and Chardonnay makes up the remaining 27%.
Pinot Noir produces rich, age-worthy wines by contributing backbone, power and grip to the wine.
Pinot Meunier is a relative of Pinot Noir. The grape, for some reason, is often considered inferior to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay because of its rusticity, but it is an important component of many Champagnes, including Krug. Pinot Meunier has several notable advantages: it buds later and has better resistance to cold, thus it is able to ripen well in poor years and has better acidity. For these reasons, it is usually planted on lesser slopes. Pinot Meunier adds fruitiness to blends - especially white fruit notes (peach and pear) that bring a fleshiness to the wine - and displays yeastiness well.
Chardonnay buds early, which makes it susceptible to frost in the spring, but it also ripens early, which makes it a good cold-climate grape. Chardonnay gives freshness, elegance, finesse and a slightly steely character to blends.
Legally, you can use seven varieties of grapes. The other four are Petit Meslier, Arban/Arbanne, Pinot Blanc, and Gamay. These were once more wide-spread in Champagne, but now it’s illegal to plant varieties outside of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Some old vineyards with pockets of these other varieties still exist, but most have been replanted to Pinot Noir.
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