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by Fred McMillin
for December 1, 1998

 

Mumm's the Word


Prologue

"Champagne in America is a way of life, a star in the eye, a status symbol, a perpetual New Year's Eve. How did this come about? The storied champagne salesmen of the Gay Nineties were a major factor...including Mannie Chappelle, Mumm's U.S. agent. [He would see that] a gift of three quarts of Mumm would arrive at the table being presided over by "Diamond Jim" Brady or Stanford White in a plushy New York restaurant."

...by Andre L. Simon in Champagne, McGraw-Hill, 1962


The Rest of the Story

Guy Devaux So, Mumm's reputation was well established by the time Mumm's Napa Valley winery released it's first California sparkler in 1986. By 1989, critic Dan Berger was "stunned by the speed with which Mumm Napa has risen to the top of the sparkling wine world of America, guided by French-trained Champagne master Guy Devaux (pictured) and California-trained Greg Fowler."

It would be fun to taste that winning 1989 Mumm Brut Prestige to see what caused all the excitement. But wait! Maybe we can come pretty close. Here's how the data on that wine compare with the Brut Prestige you can buy in your wine shop today.

Year Released
(non-vintage)

1989 1998
% Pinot Noir 60 60
% Chardonnay 34 34
% Pinot Meunier 4 4
% Pinot Gris 2 2
% Alcohol 12.5 12.5
Price $14 $16
 

Guy Devaux retired a few years ago, but Greg is still there to maintain the quality. My panel just tasted the current release blind and it whipped the competition by a wide margin.


The Wine

Non-vintage Brut Prestige, Napa Valley
Mumm Cuvee Napa, Rutherford, CA.
Rating—Highly recommended
Contact—The very savvy Sara Moore, (800) 709-7667
Price—$16


Postscript

Mumm Champagne Some years ago, Mumm was located in Reims on the Rue de la Grosse Bouteille (Street of the Big Bottle). Appropriately, when my wife and I arrived at their office one brisk November morning, our hosts presented us with the biggest bottle of Mumm I'd ever seen, a Jeroboam, the equivalent of four standard bottles. (pictured)

 

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

 

 

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