03 Jul Tasting G.H. Mumm with Chef de Cave, Didier Mariotti
G.H. Mumm is as big and bold as champagne houses come. Brimming with energy and a penchant for the good life, it’s a perception reinforced when someone like Usain Bolt is appointed as their new CEO…that is, Chief Entertainment Officer.
Mumm’s entry-level champagne, Cordon Rouge, fronts its public profile; an aperitif style that is ubiquitously marketed across an increasing portfolio of major events. And whilst a reasonable offering in its own right, it pays little testament to the depth and breadth of wines from the house.
Beneath the façade of Champagne’s fourth largest house, there are some seriously good champagnes to be had. Seriously. I was reminded of this at my recent tasting with Mumm’s chef de cave, Didier Mariotti, who was in Australia on a brief visit to launch their Millésimé 2008 and RSRV range.
Big House, Big Improvements
2016 marked Didier’s tenth year at the helm of the G.H. Mumm winemaking juggernaut, taking over from Dominique Demarville who departed for Veuve Clicquot. Since the appointment of both men, Mumm has been on an upward trajectory, reducing production volumes, placing more focus on terroir, lowering dosage, increasing use of reserve wine and maturation times, as well as trialling other ideas for improvement.
Mumm’s wines now boast some of the lowest dosages amongst the major houses, typically 6g/L for vintages and Le Rosé and 8g/L for their flagship, Cordon Rouge. It’s a major feat given production figures of 8 million bottles annually, which Mariotti reduced from 12 million to home-in on quality.
Lower dosages reveal a decidedly mineral profile. A distinct salinity now prevails across all their cuvées, something I hadn’t noticed in the past. Mariotti credits their approach to vinification as a key contributor to its mineral structure. At harvest, grape parcels are kept separate, pressed and then fermented individually in small stainless steel vats (1,000 to 3,600 litres) to make around 300 different base wines. When quizzed about their approach in the vineyard to enhance its mineral profile, Mariotti advocates an environmentally friendly approach, rather than a full-blown move to organics, something that would be hard to achieve given it sources 75 per cent of grapes from independent growers. As a member of the Comité Champagne’s technical and environmental committee, Mariotti believes that a more sensible environmental approach is needed for the region which has been buzzing with organic and biodynamic talk in recent years.
New Releases – RSRV and Millésimé 2008
Quality can be found at its best in Mumm’s newly released RSRV range – the Blanc de Blancs 2012 and Blanc de Noirs 2008 – in addition to its iconic Cuvée R.Lalou 2002. All three sit in a bracket way above its entry level cuvées, with Cuvée R.Lalou almost in another realm. RSRV, meaning ‘Reserve’, is a re-vamped version of Mumm’s supreme champagnes for those in the know; the Mumm de Cramant Blanc de Blancs and Mumm Blanc de Noirs de Verzenay. Sporting a geometrically designed, eye-catching label juxtaposed against a 19th Century inspired bottle, they will no doubt appeal to an audience of aspirational champagne drinkers, but will only be available to ‘friends of the house’.
Unlike their former versions which were deemed non-vintage on account of not receiving the minimum required ageing and also some inclusion of reserve wine, the new RSRV range is vintage, but will only be produced in exceptional vintage years. Branded as the connoisseur’s champagne, the premise of the RSRV range is ‘one grape variety, one terroir, one year.’ To this effect, Cramant and Verzenay are used as the single sites for the blanc de blancs and blanc de noirs respectively. Grand Cru status is held by both, but more than this, they are often regarded as kings of their respective kingdoms – Cramant in the Côte des Blancs is known for its powder-fine chalky minerality and finesse, and Verzenay in the Montagne de Reims for its energy and power.
The RSRV Blanc de Blancs 2012 was produced from a year yielding a small but very ripe harvest, achieving sugar levels reminiscent of the sweltering 2003 vintage. In Cramant, acidity levels were the same as in 2011 but with more alcohol, making the wines more mature and energetic. Playing to the qualities of Cramant, Mumm has deliberately applied a lower pressure to each bottle (4.5 bars) to complement its finesse and soften its execution. RSRV’s Blanc de Noirs 2008 heralds from a harvest of ideal proportions. Good sugar levels, combined with high total acidity as well as high levels of malic acid, make for a vintage of excellent balance and ageing potential; hence the additional time on lees.
In another nod to quality, Mumm now displays the date each bottle receives its tirage, as well as disgorgement, on the back of each bottle. Bravo!
Moving onto Mumm’s Millésimé 2008, it comes as no surprise that it was released after their 2009 vintage because, like for so many other producers, it just wasn’t ready. 2008 produced a rare and special sequence of environmental events that led to one of the very best vintages of all time in Champagne. Purity, acidity and finesse characterise the vintage in optimal proportions. Led by pinot noir at 70 per cent and blended with 30 per cent chardonnay, grapes are sourced from Mumm’s Grand Cru vineyards. Having recently tasted their 2004, 2006 and 2009 vintages, I was expecting something pretty great. And it was. Still in its infancy, it features all the structural and flavour elements capable of becoming a giant in the G.H.Mumm hall of fame over the next 10 to 20 years. Buy now and buy big. This one is the stuff of legends.
For a house driven by pinot noir, Mumm do a pretty good job with chardonnay. In the RSRV, it’s soft and pure with loads of finesse, not austere at all. In its vintages, chardonnay plays to Mumm’s sense of light and energy whilst helping to drive a long, focused finish. And in its Cordon Rouge, chardonnay is light and creamy, softening any edges and keeping the style very approachable.
My recent tasting of Mumm’s Australian portfolio has piqued my interest in this house. Despite its large house appeal, quality is ever-present, and its only getting better. My tasting notes follow.
Cordon Rouge Brut NV
A blend of 45% pinot noir, 30% chardonnay and 25% meunier. Includes 30% reserve wines. Bottles are given a dosage of 8g/L.
Appearance – Pale lemon with a small bead and good mousse.
Nose – Youthful and with medium pronounced aromas. Creamy but slightly coiled, there is a distinct presence of freshly cut red apples and lemon citrus.
Palate – The medium-plus acidity is exemplary of Mumm’s style, upfront and energetic, but not confrontational. There was more body to this cuvée than in my previous tastings, possibly on account of it being based on the 2012 vintage. The 2010 and 2011 vintages are decidedly ‘thin’ by comparison. Playing to the nose, it’s delightfully creamy and textural on the palate, displaying excellent salinity laced with the freshness of lemon citrus. There is good length all the way through, building with some red fruit intensity. Leads to a medium finish that is fresh, clean and dry.
Le Rosé Brut NV
A blend of 55% pinot noir, 30% meunier and 15% chardonnay. Includes 25% reserve wines and 14% red wine. Bottles are given a dosage of 6g/L.
Appearance – Medium salmon with a small bead.
Nose – Somewhat introverted on the nose. Notes of raspberry leaf and mixed berries with a hint of white pepper.
Palate – Of medium acidity and body, this is a fresh and vibrant champagne that is very primary with mixed berries dominating. Favouring purity of fruit over complexity, it doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t. Balanced with a touch of salty minerality and pepper, it leads to a medium finish that is crisp as an apple. Perfect with sushi.
Brut Millésimé 2008
70% pinot noir and 30% chardonnay. Bottles are aged for five years and given a dosage of 6g/L.
Appearance – Pale gold with a fine bead.
Nose – Still youthful, but with a hint of development, the medium pronounced nose shows off pinot noir glory. Primary red fruits are beginning to make their slow transition to a tropical fruit profile and a hint of marmalade. Pastries at this stage, rather than toast, bring a sense of moreishness alongside grilled almonds, honey and yellow flowers.
Palate – Beginning to show all the hallmark traits of one of Mumm’s finest vintages, but it will take some time to reach maturity on account of excellent vintage conditions. Its vibrant acid structure provides great focus for the full-bodied style, producing a sense of intensity that is waiting to burst forth. It all leads to a long and powerful finish. As Mumm so shrewdly puts it: “It’s a sleeping giant.” Indeed it is. So much promise for a young wine.
RSRV Blanc de Blancs 2012
100 per cent chardonnay from Cramant. Bottles are aged for three years and given a dosage of 6g/L.
Appearance – Pale gold with excellent mousse and a fine bead.
Nose – A medium-pronounced nose that sings of the beauty of Cramant! Immediately noticeable is its deliciously mineral oyster shell profile followed by white flowers. Stunningly youthful, light and pure.
Palate – The palate is strikingly forthright and pure but not austere at all. Its medium body is complemented by a highly mineral profile; salinity and chalk, both so refined and well integrated with its creamy lemony notes. It leads to a very long finish that is dry, leaving a silky texture. This is my kind of blanc de blancs.
RSRV Blanc de Noirs 2008
100 per cent pinot noir from Verzenay. Bottles are aged for six years and given a dosage of 6g/L.
Appearance – Medium gold with a fine bead.
Nose – A pronounced nose, offering plenty of savoury on top of its fruit profile. Deep purple violets and blood plums mingle with cooked fruits, baked bread, nutmeg and bouquet garni. For me, there was a distinct peatiness, adding so much depth and complexity to this Verzenay classic.
Palate – Showing some interesting signs of development for the 2008 vintage. This is a full-bodied wine offering up an intriguing palate reflecting the nose, executed with a sense of intensity, brightness and direction that one expects from Mumm. There is also a sense of pinot pungency beginning to emerge from this steadily ageing wine. Vinous, mineral and dry, leading to a very long and lingering finish.
73% pinot noir and 27% chardonnay. Bottles are aged for four years and given a dosage of 6g/L matured in barrel for eight months.
Appearance – Pale lemon with a fine bead and excellent mousse.
Nose – Zesty and youthful, a highly feminine nose offering up lightly honeyed, leesy, floral beauty.
Palate – I was pleasantly surprised with this cuvée. There is a wonderful sense of playfulness and delicacy to its structure and execution. Classic champagne flavours of brioche, stone fruits and honey find their equal in a soft saline streak, laced with white florals. The silky texture makes it all the more seductive and pretty. It leads to a medium-plus, dry finish that makes you want more. What a treat!
73% pinot noir and 27% chardonnay. Bottles are aged for six years and given a dosage of 6g/L matured in barrel for eight months.
Appearance – Pale gold with a fine bead.
Nose – Fastly developing, but still showing plenty of signs of youth, the nose offers all the lusciousness of ripe tropical fruits, pastries, honey and lemon citrus.
Palate – A full-bodied style with an execution that is rounded and bold, held upright with medium levels of lemon acidity. The nose takes a step further here, displaying some candied orange notes and toast all the while maintaining a saline streak. Complex and dry, it leads to a long finish.
Cuvée R.Lalou Brut 2002
50% pinot noir and 50% chardonnay. Bottles are aged on lees for 10 years and given a dosage of 6g/L matured in barrel. Mumm has twelve possible Grand Cru sites reserved for the making of R.Lalou. Of these, they opted to use six of the twelve. In Ambonnay, Verzy and Verzenay, they opted for: Les Hannepés, Les Crupots, Les Rochelles and Les Houles. In Avize and Cramant, they selected grapes from: Les Bionnes and Les Briquettes.
Appearance – Medium gold with a very fine bead and excellent mousse.
Nose – Offers a complex and developing bouquet of wild flowers, dried fruits, fresh apples, orange peel, nutmeg and smoke.
Palate – There is silent power and intensity in this glorious champagne, which is seamlessly integrated thanks to 10 years on lees and a dosage that has seen some barrel ageing. The palate tingles with chalky minerality and soft salinity, punctuated with grapefruit citrus pithe. Here, the nose follows through and provides great balance, length and a dry finish. Drinking nicely now, but this one has a long, long way to go. One of the greatest champagne’s you’ll find by G.H. Mumm.
**G.H. Mumm’s Millésimé 2008 is currently being rolled out across Australia at selected retailers. As a connoisseurs champagne, the RSRV range is only available to friends of the house (it’s good to be a friend!). And Cordon Rouge, Le Rosé, 4 Ans, 6 Ans and Cuvée R.Lalou 2002, are all available at Dan Murphy’s and other selected retailers.