Never mentioned and much under appreciated, Pinot Meunier has suffered greatly as winegrowers continually rip the ancient vines to plant other varietals. Pinot Noir has overtaken Pinot Meunier as the most planted grape, with Chardonnay in a close second. With the acreage and prestige of Pinot Meunier in decline, a few young winemakers are changing the way we look at Champagne. One of them is Alexandre Salmon of Champagne Salmon in Chaumuzy in the Adre Valley, the ancient home of Pinot Meunier.
It all started with his great-grandfather, Michel, and his son Alexandre. In 1958, they purchased the estate with a focus on Pinot Meunier. Four generations later, Michel's great-grandsons are taking Champagne Salmon to new heights. They not only inherited the land, but also the cumulative knowledge of it. Growing up in the vineyards and cellars, they have Champagne in their blood and a responsibility to authenticity and traditions.
Frankly, when I discovered them, I had been looking for a “Blanc de Blancs” Champagne, but to quote the great Dr. Seuss “You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut”, I always approach tasting wine with an open mind. When I tasted the wine, I felt it was unique and expressive with elegant soft bubbles and a beautifully long mineral finish. I was intrigued and wanted to know more. Because of the tremendous minerality, I assumed it was a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with some Pinot Meunier. I was mistaken.
Because of their focus on tradition and authenticity all of Salmon’s wine begins with the soil. Like in most of Champagne, limestone and chalk are abundant, in the Adre Valley, but there’s also considerable amounts of marl and some clay. Pinot Meunier is well suited for these soils and achieves incredible floral characteristics and minerality. As global warming continues, Pinot Meuniers’ early ripening characteristics allow it to be picked earlier than it’s counterparts while reaching full enological maturity and maintain incredible acidity.
Champagne Salmon hits all the marks for me. It’s sustainably farmed with a the goal of expressing the soil and vine in its purest form and creating a sublime balance of refreshing bright aromas and chalky mineral notes.
"One taste and I was in. The wine was exciting, fresh and crisp. It had citrus blossom notes with delicate bubbles and chalky mineral finish that delicately lingered. It's a fun wine that is both expressive and complex. A true joy to drink and share with friends."