Sun 4 Jan 2009
Let’s try a Champagne with a different emphasis from the three we’ve looked at in this “12 Days of Christmas” countdown with Champagne and sparkling wine. Those models, the A.R. Lenoble Brut Nature (4th Day of Christmas), Taittinger Brut 2002 (7th Day of Christmas) and Roland Champion Brut Blanc de Blancs (8th Day of Christmas), are notable for elevating elegance and high-toned, scintillating minerality.
The non-vintage Mumm Carte Classique, on the other hand, offers a sense of weight and dignity as well as abundant fruit.
The house of G.H. Mumm, founded in 1827, is among the most famous and prolific producers of Champagne. It’s fine, old reputation was marred in the 1980s and early to mid 1990s by a series of misjudgments in the winery and by a spreading of thinning resources. With a new cellarmaster, quality began to show a turn-around in 1995 and ’96, and while Mumm champagnes will probably never possess the racy excitement and verve offered by some of the other venerable houses (not to mention many small artisan producers), they deliver on the promise of traditional virtues of freshness, structure and balance.
Mumm’s Carte Classique has always been my favorite of the firm’s non-vintage roster, and opening a bottle last night confirmed my bias. First produced in 1879, the Carte Classique retains its aura of 19th Century robustness and joie de vivre.
Dominated by pinot meunier grapes — 50 percent, to 35 percent pinot noir and 15 percent chardonnay — this Champagne is a burnished tawny gold color; tiny bubbles surge relentlessly upward. There’s a real fermented yeasty, bready quality in the bouquet, highlighted by scents of apple, guava and quince, etched with spice and caramel. The slight tension in the mouth between ripe sweetness and crisp dryness makes this product Mumm’s most appealing Champagne; notes of orange rind and crystallized ginger underscore elements of biscuits, wheatmeal and limestone, while the finish is long, dry, minerally and substantial. Excellent. About $35 is right, but you can find the Carte Classique anywhere from $26 to $45.
Mumm was acquired in 1999 by Allied Domecq, which in turn was bought by Pernod Ricard in 2005.