Wine Review: Mumm de Cramant Blanc de Blancs

These days I seldom find much of interest at airport duty free shops but occasionally there are some real bargains to be made so if I have the time I often at least browse what they have. I stumbled across the Mumm de Cramant Blanc de Blancs at Schiphol airport where it was sold for around €45 which to me is a really great value for money.

Mumm is one of the old champagne houses. It was officially founded in 1827 but already in 1761 the family produced wine in Cologne under the name P.A. Mumm after its owner Peter Arnold Mumm. The family also had ownership of vineyards in the Rhine valley and as they were business minded they also realized that there was a great business opportunity in the excellent sparkling wines produced in the champagne region. They then decided to establish a branch of the company in Reims in 1827. The focus was decided to be on quality with the motto of Georges Hermann Mumm “Only the best”.

Mumm’s own vineyards cover an area of nearly 218 hectares and they are Pinot Noir heavy (78% is Pinot Noir). The Pinot Noir is mainly in and around Montagne de Reims with the Grand Cru vineyards of Cramant and Avize. They do however also have vineyards dedicated to Chardonnay in the Côte des Blancs and in the Vallée de la Marne Pinot Meunier prevails.

The prevalence of Pinot Noir makes the Mumm de Cramant sort of an oddity being 100% Chardonnay. Historically it was only made for friends of the family and was sent with a folded business card. This history can still be seen in the label that has integrated the folded part in the top right of the label and an old style bottle. The wine is made from a single Grand Cru vineyard that Mumm acquired in 1882. This champagne is actually only aged for two years on the lees. The idea is to preserve the fresh, citrus flavors of the Cramant Chardonnay, before disgorgement and not to give too much away but it works. This cuvée is bottled under lower pressure than normal (4.5 atmospheres of pressure vs the normal 6) and this creates a more delicate wine with tiny bubbles that sort of melt in the mouth.

The color is pale yellow and it has a wonderful aroma of brioche, lemon, fresh fruit and white flowers. The palate is creamy with fine texture and a pleasant acidity. The aromas present in the nose are also present in the flavor but there are also hints of almond, ginger and pleasant mineral note to it. A really excellent Blanc de blancs and to me by far the best that I have sampled from Mumm. Actually I have not been that impressed by what Mumm has produced in Champagne, I have even preferred Mumm Napa above the champagnes but this really changes all that.

For me it deserves a 4.5 in quality rating and when I bought it at €45 it deserves a 5 in value for money. That is perhaps not entirely fair as it was a sale on and normal price would between €70-90 (in Sweden it would cost 799 SEK approximately €85-90) and at that price the value for money rating would more be like 4. I am however glad I managed to pick up two bottles and will have a look next time I pass through Schiphol.

Wine Review: Cuvée Charlemagne Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2008

Guy Charlemagne is one of the more underestimated champagnes I have encountered. A grower champagne house situated in the village of Mesnil sur Oger. It is basically next door to the much more well-known Salon and Delamotte house and while it cannot brag with being in business for as long, they still do have a respectable history of having been in business since 1892. One of my favorite grower champagnes and looking at their current production ofapproximately 130 000 bottles per year they seem popular among others as well.

Their motto is ‘Quality is my truth’ and to me it often comes through in their wines. We had the pleasure of picking up seven bottles of the Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs from the lovely vintage 2008. This specific cuvée is not made every year so only the best vintages will have it and it only uses grapes from Mesnil sur Oger and Oger with its limestone soil.

It is a 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay. It is vinified in thermo regulated stainless steel and it has a small dosage of 6 grams per liter. Aging between 3 and 4 years in the chalk cellars of Guy Charlemagne.

The color is golden yellow and it has very fine and persistent bubbles. The nose of this wine just blew me away and it was, at least to me, very different from many other Blanc de Blancs I have tried. It has clear tones of candied fruits with notes of apple, oranges, pineapple as well as dried raisins and toastiness. The taste is full and creamy with brioche, bread, candied ginger and the finish is long with fresh acidity and mineral.

Lovely to drink now but should be even better if saved for some years. Not sure what the recommendation of the producer is but I would expect it to age very well for at least 7-10 more years. Enjoy it with some Jamón Ibérico or foie gras or just on its own.

I would rate it as a 4.5 in quality. It is truly a great Champagne and looking at value for money it is fantastic. I managed to secure these for 400 SEK (~€43) per bottle but these days you would end up paying at least €50 but to me that still means it deserves a 5 in value for money rating. So if you find this make sure to buy it and then decide whether to save it or drink now.

Wine Review: Jacques Selosse Initial Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut

So here is my first review on the How to spend it -section: Jacques Selosse Initial Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut. I am often very torn with wines and Champagnes that cost over 100 € a bottle. Yes, I buy them sometimes for curiosity’s sake . However, I am not completely sure if they are worth the money. If we take the Krug Grande Cuvee for example, its a wonderful Champagne. But is it that much better in proportion than a good standard Champagne like the Francois Bedel, one of my favorite Champagnes in the 30 euro section? I think that the Krug is better, definitely, but is it really four times better, which would be in line with the price difference? This is just my thinking around the price of wines, but of course I know that it’s not how the world of supply and demand works. Taste is taste and a price of a Champagne is not 100% in line with quality or the cost of production. Price is mostly (but not completely) determined on how much consumers are willing to pay for it.

Back to the Selosse. The winemaker Anselme Selosse has a bit of a cult status. He divides opinions like many charismatic characters. His wines start from around 100 € a bottle and vintages of course have a heavier price tag. When looking at the more expensive vintages, they do not however climb up to the price levels of a Vielles Vignes Francais or Krug Clos du Mensil, but are considered by some critics to be of equal quality, thus great value for money. There are however numerous experts who also find his wines, if not awful at least poor so be aware that opinions differ on the topic of his brilliance (or lack thereof). So before splurging 100 € or more consider whether you believe you will like it. We started with the Selosse Initial because, well, we could get or hands on it, and as its name suggests, it is a good starting point to get acquainted with the Selosse style.

The wine is quite light colored with small bubbles. The nose is brioche-like with marzipan and almonds. One can also get some peach, citrus, honey, yellow apples and minerals. There is a lot going on in this wine. The taste is much fuller than many other champagnes with some acidity and notes of apples and citrus fruit. There is an interesting slight bitterness in the aftertaste that gets stronger when the wine warms up. If one can say a wine is complex, this is it. Its not just cold dry and sparkling, it has a lot of character. It reminds me of the Horiot Champagnes that are like great regular wines, just with bubbles and both producers seem to have a similar philosophy, they do whatever they want (not what is expected). One tip for drinking it though. Pour a small glass at a time and keep the wine cool in the fridge. When it warms up you get a bit of an overwhelming zesty lemon bitterness that is not as pleasant as of you would have kept the wine chilled.

Ok, I am sold. The Selosse Initial is a very, very good Champagne. I would recommend pairing it with some food, not sure what exactly, but light meats and seafood would be a good start. The quality of the wine definitely gets a 4.5. I have not gotten over my dilemma yet regarding the price vs quality ratio. Perhaps I will over time. I would say the drop is minor though and the value for money rating is a 4. One thing to consider as well before getting carried away with Selosse purchases. Anselme Selosse has mentioned in several interviews that he wants to make wines coherent to what each year has to offer, not a product that tastes the same from year to year. To me this keeps things interesting, but it also means that quality will vary. This is just good to know for managing expectations. Anyway, I am now amongst the fans and very happy to have another bottle in the fridge and that’s already a sunk cost so no point worrying about the price of it.