You may have noticed that Champagne is dominated by three main varieties of grapes: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.
Most Champagnes are made with a blend of these. Up to 90% of Champagnes use a blend of around 70% red grapes (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) and 30% white grape Chardonnay. Only less than 5% contain only Chardonnay (Blanc de Blancs), and even less contain only red grapes.
It’s no surprise many people don’t realise that there are actually a few other grape varieties permitted in Champagne, although rarely seen: Red grape Pinot Gris and white grapes Pinot Blanc, Petit Meslier and Arbane.
Why is it that these 3 varieties, amongst all the other possible grapes, are so popular?
Each of these grapes add a certain quality to the wine.
Pinot Noir (38% of vineyards in Champagne) adds body, structure and a complex flavour.
Pinot Meunier (32% of vineyards in Champagne) is a cousin of Pinot Noir. It adds fruitiness and floral aromas.
Chardonnay ( 30% of vineyards in Champagne) adds freshness, elegant and finesse.
Together these 3 varieties complement each other perfectly to create great, well-balanced and rounded blends.
Some grapes thrive better in certain areas depending on the soil and climate. Pinot Meunier buds later in the spring which means it has better cold-weather resistance and can survive in areas the other two wouldn’t grow so well.
However, Pinot Meunier ages quicker so can be left out of some of the high-end Champagnes.