Blanc de Noirs Champagne

Champagne from just Black Grapes: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier


Blanc de blancs means “white from white” and Blanc de noirs means “white from black.” There are lots of Blanc de blancs Champagnes, made of Chardonnay, available, but Blanc de noirs are fairly rare.

Actually there seem to be more Blanc de noir Californian sparklers available such as Schramsberg, Chandon, and Gloria Ferrer ( who “cheats” by adding 8% Chardonnay). The best known Blanc de noir Champagne is the very rare and expensive Bollinger Cuvee Vieilles Vignes Francaises. More and more Grower Blanc de noirs are being made too.

Since the allowed grapes, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, have black or dark red skins, the clear grape juice is pressed out and allowed very little contact with the dark skins, allowing for a white or off-white wine.

Blanc de noirs are very full bodied wines and often have a deeper and darker yellowish or goldish color. They go well with stronger foods than many Champagnes, much like Roses, like strong hard cheeses, hearty stews, and meats.

Finding a Blanc de noirs Champagne can involve some work as few are made and fewer imported, for example into the United States. Your local store will likely not have any. Other than Bollinger, discussed below, you may have luck looking for Egly-Ouriet Brut Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru and Pommery Wintertime Brut Blanc de Noirs, both non vintage wines. At least as of this writing, I could find retailers that had them in stock in the US, UK, and other countries as well. Cedric Bouchard (we have tasting notes), perhaps a rising star who started producing his own Champagnes in 2000, makes two vintage Brut Blanc de Noirs that are exported. There are others as well, but these are among the easiest to find.

The best known as mentioned is the rare and expensive Bollinger Cuvee Vieilles Vignes Francaises. I’m a big Bollinger fan yet have not tried this as of this writing. Its first vintage was 1969 and how it’s made influences its character as much as the fact that it’s a Blanc de noir. It is made of pre phylloxera vines. The phylloxera louse, an aphid like critter, destroyed most vineyards in Europe and devastated France’s vineyards in the 19th century. Three vineyards of Bollinger’s Pinot Noir survived and that is one reason for the wines uniqueness (two vineyards remain, less than half a hectare total). The vines are also planted with a very low density and heavily pruned, resulting in vines that produce far less juice but super concentrated juice. Read much more about the Vieilles Vignes Francaise vines here. How expensive is it? I can currently find one US source, The Rare Wine Company (and I love them), the 2000 for $650.

Blanc de noirs Champagnes are rare and hard to find. They are big and full flavored beasts, and if you are a Champagne lover you owe it to yourself to eventually try one. With the explosion of Grower Producers, who knows, they may become more popular and common.