With almost 8 million bottles sold every year, G.H. Mumm, or simply Mumm, is the third-largest Champagne house after Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot, and the fourth-largest if we include Nicolas Feuillatte, the leading cooperative of the region. Based in its prestigious building in Reims, it is part of Pernod Ricard, the beverages group that also owns Perrier-Jouët. Its Cordon Rouge brut non-vintage champagne is extremely popular, with its distinctive red ribbon that has adorned each bottle since 1876 and has accompanied F1 podiums for many years. But the house also produces much more intimate cuvées, recently streamlined in a new range dubbed RSRV (reserved), which showcases the great know-how on both terroirs and champagne making of this historical house.
Peter Arnold Mumm was a German banker based in Cologne, who owned large vineyards in the Rhine Valley. In 1761, he started its wine production and trading activity under the name P.A. Mumm. In the early years of the 19th century, his three sons, Gottlieb, Jacobus, and Philipp, realized the sales potential of the sparkling wines produced in the Champagne region. This is how in 1827, they established a new branch of the family business in Reims, with the help of local representatives, Friedrich Giesler and G. Heuser, under the name P. A. Mumm Giesler & Cie.
Very early in its history, the house realized the importance of high-quality grapes, supervising every stage in production, from vine-growing practices to the crucial pressing stage. This is how they became pioneers in the region in purchasing grapes from vine growers rather than unfermented juices or wines and setting up their winepresses directly in the vineyards. In 1840, they went further, by acquiring their first parcels in Verzenay, a pinot noir grand cru village in the Montagne de Reims.
Giesler left the company, and Georges Hermann Mumm, representing the next generation in line, took over the reins of the house in 1852, which became G.H. Mumm & Cie. Georges was a man ahead of his time with an unusual taste for discovery and adventure. His approach to champagne making, encapsulated in his motto “Only the best,” led him to expand the house’s vineyard. His passion for travel took him across Europe and beyond, as far away as Australia and New Zealand, to market his champagnes, with their distinctive red ribbon on the bottle that he introduced in 1876. Georges’ pioneering spirit allowed the house to establish its reputation for style and quality and at the turn of the 20th century, becoming an official champagne supplier to the British royalty, and having illustrious clients among royal families across Europe, including those of Austria-Hungary, Belgium, the Netherlands, Prussia, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Its sales rose from half-a-million bottles in 1879 to 3 million in 1913, becoming the leading Champagne house, with subsidiaries in markets as far as Russia, the United States, Canada, Brazil, and Peru.
In 1920, René Lalou, a French lawyer and businessman, became a member of Mumm’s board of directors, and its President in 1935, (and president of Perrier-Jouët in 1959). He launched a reorganization of the house’s vineyards, acquiring additional parcels in grand cru, and further developed the business for nearly 50 years.
The house changed hands several times in more recent times, to eventually join Pernod Ricard in 2005, which has worked since on its renaissance, investing in both the quality of the wines and the brand. A new vat room was added for greater precision in the blends, and dosage levels and production volumes were lowered. The brand was the official sponsor of F1 racing from 2000 until 2015 and is now the official sponsor of Formula E, and in 2016, the house appointed Olympic gold medalist sprinter Usain Bolt as its CEO-Chief Entertainment Officer.
Vineyard and Production
Mumm’s vineyards cover nearly 218 ha, of which the vast majority planted with pinot noir, the house’s signature grape variety, mostly in the Montagne de Reims. The rest is planted with chardonnay in the Côte des Blancs, and pinot meunier in the Vallée de la Marne. The vineyard has an average rating of 98% on the crus scale, with 160 ha in grands crus, namely Aÿ, Bouzy, Ambonnay, Verzy, Verzenay, Mailly, Cramant, and Avize. The house sources the rest of the grape it needs from independent vine growers. Winemaking is “standard” with first fermentation and full malolactic fermentation carried in stainless steel vats, followed by average aging and dosage. The focus of the work is on the careful assemblage of grape varieties, terroirs, and vintages.
The Mumm style, perfectly incarnated by its iconic Cordon Rouge, is based on pinot noir, the house’s signature grape variety, mostly from the from Montagne de Reims, for a champagne of distinctive fresh and intense fruitiness. “You always find this idea of biting into the fruit,” says former Chef de Cave Didier Mariotti.
Besides its rather classic range made of brut, rosé, demi-sec, and vintage, Mumm recently introduced a range of terroir-focused champagnes dubbed RSRV to showcase and celebrate some of their best vineyards. It comprises five delicious cuvées very different in composition and character that should satisfy all palates and preferences. My favorites are RSRV Blanc de Blancs, and RSRV Blanc de Noirs, which de facto replace two iconic cuvées: Mumm de Cramant and Mumm de Verzenay. But I am also a fan and a regular drinker of Cordon Rouge–our family’s champagne–that I age at home for 6-12 months for extra complexity. I recently had the chance the taste the 1996 and 1995 (in magnum). Both were spectacular, but 1996 particularly impressed me because I usually find this exceptionally fresh and rich vintage not ready yet, but this interpretation was just perfect. In 2018, they launched Grand Cordon Stellar: a champagne specifically designed to drink in space, with its high-tech bottle that makes it possible to enjoy champagne in zero gravity. I never had the chance to taste it (yet) but I am intrigued by the concept, which can also be experienced on Earth on special zero-gravity flights.