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Champagne talk with Didier Mariotti – Chief Winemaker of G.H. Mumm Champagne

Who doesn’t like to have an entertaining Friday night after work? Getting together with great friends, ​sharing some good time with a nice cocktail at hand, which becomes kind of Friday ‘ritual’ in modern day life. Just like many of you did, I had a very intriguing and value-added Friday night, especially having an opportunity to attend a champagne tasting talk organized by one of the prestigious champagne house, G.H. Mumm, to present some of their incredible selected champagne to their prestigious guests and champagne lovers, yet, the highlight of the evening, should be having the Chief Winemaker of the champagne house, Mr, Didier Mariotti, to present the selected champagne as well as sharing the incredible legacy of the house with its remarkable history about traditional champagne making.

With over centuries of history in champagne making, G.H. Mumm is literally founded by one of the Germany’s most ancient noble families, the von Mumms, back in medieval era. After settling the operations in Reims, the founders officially established their champagne house in 1827, and subsequently, succeeded by one of the founder’s son, Mr. Georges Hermann Mumm, then it become G.H. Mumm as we know today. With the legendary creation of ‘Cordon Rough’ which first released in 1875, this iconic champagne has remained as the symbol of quality of the champagne house, and making their household name travelled abroad as far as to Australia and New Zealand.

Structured and elegant texture is the first thing ones can find in all G.H. Mumm champagne in general, thanks to the contribution of the majority in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and the unique blending method, which makes the Mumm champagne a distinctive style that always makes it associates with haute cuisine. The pleasant and memorable fragrance from the goblet in magical layers of aroma such as white fruit, floral and minerals, turns all G.H. Mumm champagne enjoyment to be an everyday celebration of living one’s life as ‘art de vivre’ in all time. While the story can go much further, I am very grateful to have the Chief Winemaker himself, to share with our dear readers more about the joy of enjoying a glass of fine champagne, and even more. My Modern Darcy: Hi Didier, it’s such a delight to have you here to have this champagne conversation with us, so can you share with us, as a Chief Winemaker, what is your daily roles look like in the cellar? And how is that different than being a champagne sommelier?

Didier Mariotti: Chief Winemaker and sommelier are two different professions but both based on wine passion. Sommeliers are in constant contact with clients. As a Chief Winemaker, I create new cuvees that the Sommelier will present to the clients. I am also an ambassador for the House, travelling to educate clients and journalists on quality. One of the main things I do every day is work closely with my oenological team for the tasting of clear wines, blending, etc. In addition to this, I always have the task of guaranteeing a constant Mumm wine, which comes down to the blending. I need to make sure that we are maintaining the House’s classic style with the pinot noir’s intensity.

MMD: As you have mentioned about the maison’s legacy, can you tell us what is the most memorable thing working with a champagne house like Mumm with such profound history?

DM: Tasting old vintages is very intense as you get to experience the entire history of the House through the wines. Mumm’s daring side is of ultimate importance. It has allowed me to innovate a lot to always reflect the brand’s image through the different wines.

MMD: With the savoir-faire and in-depth champagne making history, can you share with us a bit how to select a good champagne? And what is an appropriate way to enjoy a glass of champagne?

DM: Champagne is best served between 8 and 10 °C in a glass with an opening wide enough for proper aeration. For some of our cuvées, such as RSRV, we have created special glasses to accompany the development of the aromas. Also, store champagne horizontally rather than vertically. There is always an occasion for champagne, and always a specific wine for a specific occasion. In fact, it depends if it is a dinner, a lunch, an “aperitif” or a party.

MMD: Among the remarkable champagne collection from the maison, can you tell us which one(s) is/are your favorite, and why?

DM: I’m attached to all of our wines, and in terms of when I decide to drink them, it all depends on the moment, on my mood and on my guests. For example, I would choose Mumm Blanc de Blancs as an aperitif or with fish, while the Blanc de Noirs would be my preference with white meat or a vieux comté cheese. Otherwise, it truly depends on the occasion. For a pool party in the summertime, I would choose Mumm Rosé.

MMD: I have some friends talk about vintage champagne, and some of them has hesitation about the necessity of doing a vintage one since most of the champagne are blended with different vintage(s) at some point, what is your thought of that? Do you think vintage champagne has their value and prestige?

DM: Non vintages express the style of the House in a constant way whereas vintages reflect and are a tribute to a specific year. For the champagne House, it’s a memory of a great year weather-wise captured in an extremely good bottle. So yes, vintage champagne definitely has value and prestige. We recently launched our Mumm RSRV Blanc de Blancs, for example, which is from a single terroir (Cramant) and a single year (2012) and has an extreme finesse and purity.

MMD: In terms of vintage champagne, do you have any specific vintage(s) that you like? Can you share with us why and the tasting note of them?

DM: Yes – our Collection du Chef de Caves includes the finest vintages from the past 30 years, namely the celebrated Cordon Rouge Millésimes from 1985, 1990 and 1996.

- Cordon Rouge 1985: the nose and palate are rich and complex, yet still very fresh. Aromas of citrus fruit, dried orange peel, coffee, nuts and spices are undercut by a distinctive flinty minerality. On the palate the wine is still very lively and fresh, but with perfect balance and a beautiful long finish.

- Cordon Rouge 1990: the nose is dominated by aromas of dried fruits and fruit compote, in particular dates, nougat, acacia honey, caramel and raisin. An attractive vinous quality on the palate leads to a long rounded finish.

- Cordon Rouge 1996: the wine is rich and smoky with aromas of lemon zest, sirop baked plums and pears and hints of white tobacco. The mouth is racy and fresh, with good fruit and a very long finish, typical of the best wines from this vintage.

Our Mumm RSRV Blanc de Blancs Cramant is also remarkable. This creamy, and lively champagne has a fresh incisive attack, fine bubbles and an instant pleasure. The nose reveals scented notes of citrus, fresh flowers and fruits.

MMD: Now switching from champagne to lifestyle, in your opinion, how did champagne enjoyment related to a gentleman’s lifestyle?

DM: Champagne is closely related to the gentleman’s lifestyle through sport. We have always accompanied the joy of victory and have long been an icon of celebration. Mumm is truly a lifestyle champagne designed for high-energy moments, reflected through the intensity of its pinot noir and made for daring achievers who push past the limits. For example, the Cordon Rouge Club in the UK is made up of worldwide explorers and adventurers such as Bear Grylls and Mike Horn who perfectly embody this spirit. For a more intimate moment, a glass of RSRV Blanc de Noirs is perfect for an evening around the fireplace in winter.

MMD: From your point of view, what are the essential quality for a modern gentleman?

DM: I think the modern gentleman is always looking to share and reach out towards others. Therefore, he considers tasting champagne as a moment of conviviality and will always serve his guests first. He also knows how to appreciate a good champagne and has a respect for wine and its history.

MMD: If there’s anyone come to you one day and ask for your advice to be a successful winemaker or sommelier, what kind of advice will you give him/her?

DM: You absolutely have to have passion. You also need humility as we can’t predict nature. In fact, years after years, you have to adapt to the weather and make the most of each harvest. You must also be patient and have respect for the ageing process. This appreciation for champagne methods and processes as well as for the heritage of the Champagne region’s land is key to being a successful ambassador for a wine, be it as a winemaker or as a sommelier. Transmission is also really important for a champagne House like Mumm with such a profound history. To maintain the style of the House, winemakers should be able to pass on the savoir-faire to their successors.

Special thanks to Mr. Didier Mariotti, image courtesy of G.H. Mumm & Cie, France

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