Pinot Meunier Specialist Christophe Mignon comes from a long line of farmers in the hamlet of Le-Mesnil-le-Huttier, 13 miles west of Epernay. His 6.3 hectares of vines were planted by his great-grandparents and are spread among thirty parcels between the villages of Le Breuil and Festigny in the Vallee de la Marne. This area south of the Marne River and along the Flagot tributary is known for its high percentage of Pinot Meunier, which is particularly well suited to the deep clay and chalky Tuffeaux soils dominating the terrain.
Mignon’s unique approach to viticulture is something we like to refer to as The Mignon Method, which combines natural practices including biodynamics, phytotherapy, homeopathy and geobiology. He likens nature to a rubik’s cube, always changing and offering up new challenges. He is constantly in search of the most subtle challenges and limiting factors in his work, and revels in finding inventive solutions. With the mind of an engineer and the heart and soul of a fifth generation farmer, Mignon’s ingenuity has led to creations such as special footing blades for his tractor to achieve the ideal width and depth when working soils in the vine rows, as well as a homeopathy machine that dilutes treatments of copper blended with valerian root and garlic to help regulate whatever Mother Nature throws his way.
Mignon has followed the lunar calendar for 20 years, allowing the moon’s cycles to dictate his work in the vineyards and in the cellar. He strives to follow the rhythm of nature and explains, “the moon for a vigneron is like a metronome for a musician.” In seeking harmony between the root system and everything that happens above ground, Mignon employs one person per hectare in his vineyards. This ambitious and costly ratio (something you might find at such regal estates as Dagueneau or Leroy) helps to obtain very low yields and directly contributes to the high quality of mature fruit at harvest.
In the cellar, everything related to water, oxygen and gas is done according to the lunar calendar. Each of Mignon’s 30 terroirs is vinified and conserved separately in inox and apoxy-lined tanks. The alcoholic fermentation is executed with 50% indigenous yeast and 50% biodynamically certified quartz. The fermentation is temperature controlled and lasts 15-30 days. Mignon prefers his wines on the drier side and picking at optimum ripeness allows for little to no dosage. Additionally, very minimal amounts of sulfur are used. The pure Pinot Meunier lineup includes the following cuvées:
Brut Nature NV – A 50/50 blend of two recent vintages, aged 24 months in bottle and finished without dosage. It shows a beautiful, expressive nose of red fruits and faint floral aromas. Rich on the palate with balanced acidity, taut minerality and a super dry finish.
Brut Nature Vintage – This zero dosage vintage cuvee is sourced from 40 year old Meunier vines planted in the communes of Festigny and Le Breuil. The nose is delicate and transparent, the palate is concentrated, powerful and offers a darker-toned minerality with hints of almond on the finish.
Brut Rose d’Assemblage NV – Like the Brut Nature, this wine is a 50/50 blend of two recent vintages and aged 24 months in bottle. Stylistically, it is vinous, but remains fresh, lively and very fine. Hints of citrus and caramel add complexity to the palate of this layered and extremely elegant rosé.
Christophe Mignon is both intellectual and philosophical, as are his wines. But nonetheless, he doesn’t take himself too seriously. You’d be hard pressed to find a bigger smile than the one spread across his face when he is in his vines. He believes Champagne is meant for true enjoyment and there is much to enjoy in his exceptional lineup of vinous and textured wines made from Pinot Meunier, Champagne’s “underdog” varietal (though garnering more and more interest with each passing year).