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Champagne grape varieties

Words by Simon Difford

Champagne, surprisingly, is made predominantly from black grapes. The three main grape varieties used are Pinot Noir (the red grape of neighbouring Burgundy), Pinot Meunier (a fruitier relative of Pinot Noir) and lastly Chardonnay.

Pinot Meunier is the most commonly used of these three varieties with Chardonnay, the only white grape, accounting for less than 30% of vines in the Champagne region. Unlike the other two varieties, Pinot Meunier, being late budding and early ripening, can be relied upon to ripen throughout the Champagne region, which probably explains its domination.

There are three other grape varieties permitted in the region: Petit Meslier, Arbanne and Pinot Blanc Vrai. In practice, however, these lesser-known varieties are rarely grown.