Armand de Brignac to make world’s most expensive Meunier

Armand de Brignac is planning to launch the world’s first prestige cuvée Champagne made entirely from Pinot Meunier grapes.

Jay-Z has publicly declared his devotion to Armand de Brignac Champagne

The brand, famous for its bold packaging and association with celebrities, most notably American rapper Jay-Z, plans to isolate a wine from its single vineyard called Clos Yons, which is planted exclusively with Pinot Meunier.

Speaking of the proposed new product, Philippe Bienvenu, commercial director for the Champagne, told the drinks business that the Clos was situated between Chigny-les-Roses and Rilly-la-Montagne, and was a “specific terroir that is wonderful for Pinot Meunier.”

Currently grapes from the clos, which is just 1.1 hectares, are used for the Armand de Brignac multi-vintage brut, and Philippe said that the addition to the range would be the brand’s first vintage offering.

The launch of the Champagne is still a long way off however. “We wanted to start with a wine from last year, but the vintage was not good enough,” he said.

“If this year is good, 2012 will be our launch vintage,” he added, and bearing in mind the brut spends at least five years ageing on its lees before disgorgement, and then a further six months in the cellars before release, it is unlikely the Pinot Meunier will be on the market before 2017.

Philippe also said that he believed there were around 15 clos in Champagne and this was the only one planted with 100% Pinot Meunier.

The project should reinforce an ongoing reassessment of Pinot Meunier’s quality potential, as the grape is often, and sometimes unfairly sidelined as a lesser component in the Champagne blend due to its capacity to age faster than Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

However, as previously and extensively reported by the drinks business, Pinot Meunier can make high quality wines for the Champagne blend and has formed a key constituent in Krug’s Grand Cuvée for many years.

Meanwhile, Philippe also told db that Armand de Brignac would be bringing a blanc de noirs made from Pinot Noir and Meunier to its range in the near future.

“Because of our location in the Montagne de Reims, where the majority of grapes are black, we thought it would be good to pay tribute to our specific terroir.”

The current range of Armand de Brignac, also known as Ace of Spades

According to Philippe, the new Champagne will contain a blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Meunier from the vineyards of Armand de Brignac brand owner Cattier.

The blanc de noirs will add to the current range of three Armand de Brignac Champagnes, comprising a brut, rosé and blanc de blancs.

The latest multi-vintage blend of brut Armand de Brignac, dubbed “gold”, was released in March this year using the 2003, 2005 and 2006 harvests as its base.

The brand’s total production is presently 50,000 bottles, made up of 35,000 bottles of brut, 10,000 of rosé and 5,000 of the blanc de blancs.

“We could grow to a maximum of 70,000 bottles,” admitted Philippe, “but it is not our priority to get bigger.”

Click here for a full analysis of the Pinot Meunier grape in Champagne.

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