It was the ultimate exclusive invitation – a champagne tasting with Hamish Millar, Global Brand Manager for G.H.Mumm, official sponsor for the Melbourne Cup.
How could we say ‘No’!
Eager to find out more about the house of this elegant champagne, we met at the serene Intercontinental Sanctuary Cove Resort. What followed was a brief but illuminating talk about champagne, and the House of Mumm itself.
‘Champagne’ refers to the sparkling wine made only in the Champagne region of France. There are strict appellation laws governing champagne, grapes used (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay), specific plots where grapes may be grown, and methods of wine making.
Mumm began in 1827 when the Mumm brothers decided to establish a new branch of their German family winemaking business in Champagne. From the beginning of the house, Mumm adopted not only the name of founder Georges Hermann Mumm, but also his motto: ‘Only the Best’. It was Georges whose research led to the making of Cuvée Cordon Rouge, but he also had the foresight to build 25 km of cellars beneath the vineyards, a move which in later years would prove invaluable!
So, what brings eight champagne connoisseurs from such an established wine house in France to Australia?
Only a few years after the House of Mumm was founded in Reims, the Melbourne Cup was first run. There’s definite synergy between the G.H.Mumm and The Cup, Australia’s most prestigious race in the ‘sport of kings’, so little surprise that Mumm chose to become official sponsor of the event.
Throughout history, Mumm has been the champagne of kings and monarchs, their Royal Rosé the choice of courts in Denmark and Sweden, with Mumm still under the royal warrant of Queen Elisabeth II. Mumm is the #1 selling champagne in France, yet its export market is also increasing, including to Australia as our love of champagne grows!
Not only champagne, but Mumm itself is steeped in symbols, tradition and rituals: the pop of the champagne cork to mark success, considered matching of food to wine, the glass flute as drinking vessel, the ‘cordon rouge’ sash which adorns each bottle (a symbol of excellence and tribute to the esteemed Légion d’Honneur), the folded down corner on each Blanc de Blancs label (in memory of when each bottle was hand-delivered to VIP customers), the capsule emblem on the top of each bottle; it’s all part of ‘the true culture of champagne’.
Tonight we’re treated to a rare event: the sabrage. Believed to have begun with Napoleon demonstrating his victory through the ‘beheading’ of a bottle, a sabre is used to break the neck by tracing along the line of weakness. Find the right line, and even a wine glass will do the job, but once every two years Mumm commissions an artist to design a sabre to dignify this ritual. Tonight’s is an elegant curved sword by Welsh designer, Ross Lovegrove, launched in September 2013 at L’Opéra in Paris.
Mumm is a Pinot Noir led house, bringing fruitiness to the wine, as well as a clean finish. It’s a wine we could savour all evening without tiring of its freshness on the palate, and as champagne is designed to accompany food, on this occasion it’s complemented by a delicate selection of canapés from Chef Parasharum Pathak, including foie gras, smoked tofu, scallops and kingfish.
But the ultimate taste is yet to come: a glass of the Cuvée R. Lalou, in tribute to the visionary cellarmaster Renée Lalou, who led the house from 1920 – 1973. Made only in exceptional vintage years, the Lalou is rich and complex; a prized rare treat.
Win or lose in the Melbourne Cup, many of us will enjoy a glass of sparkling wine; if we’re lucky, a champagne! If you win the trifecta, you could do no better than to raise a glass of Lalou, one of the world’s finest wines. As Napoleon Bonaparte said: “Champagne! In victory one deserves it; in defeat one needs it.” Salut!
DISCLAIMER: Good Food Gold Coast was a guest of the Intercontinental Sanctuary Cove Resort.
Intercontinental Sanctuary Cove Resort, Manor Cir, Sanctuary Cove, Hope Island Queensland 4212 Ph: 07 5530 1234