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Mumm reaffirms its quality credentials

Champagne G.H. Mumm is about to launch its first prestige cuvée since 1985.

The launch of Cuvée R. Lalou 1998, described as “the offspring” of Cuvée René Lalou, is a daring move for Pernod Ricard, which until it acquired Allied Domecq had no Champagnes in its stable.

Production of the house’s original prestige cuvée, Cuvée René Lalou, was stopped under Seagram. The group took a volume approach to running its Champagne business in order to finance its external acquisitions and indulged in some heavy discounting activity in the UK market, damaging the Mumm brand. It wasn’t until the house was purchased by Allied Domecq that a value strategy was put in place.

But, nowadays, Champagne critics agree that quality is no longer an issue for Mumm, following the work of former cellarmaster Dominique Demarville (poached last year by Veuve Clicquot) and Didier Mariotti, Mumm’s new chef de cave. By launching a prestige cuvée, Mumm is keen to highlight the quality of its wines as well as providing a finishing touch to the house’s existing product range.

The launch of the prestige cuvée also reinforces Pernod Ricard’s premium focus. According to Olivier Cavil, communications director for G.H. Mumm and Perriet Jouët Champagnes, speaking at a sneak preview in Rheims, the group is currently undertaking “the most ambitious investment plan since the Mumm caves were dug”. As a result of this strategy, two tranches of investment (the sum of which has not been disclosed) will be made in Mumm’s technological facilities over the next ten years.

The cuvée was named after René Lalou– a former president of H.G Mumm.  Passionate about terroir, Lalou has been credited with restoring Mumm’s original vineyards after they were destroyed first by phylloxera, then by the Second World War. Cuvée R. Lalou 1998 is all about terroir with a blend based on the house’s seven grands crus. Cavil explains: “You have to get back to your roots to be credible”

The bold character of the 1996 vintage was not thought to reflect the house style (characterized by freshness and intensity) and was deemed too heavy and full for most consumers.

In the UK market, the prestige cuvée will have a rrp of £100 and will be distributed within the on-trade and specialist retailers such as Harrods and Selfridges. G.H. Mumm will use an allocation system for the 72,000-80,000 bottles of the cuvée. According to Didier Mariotti, 90-95% of the cuvee will be in bottle, with the rest in Magnum. According to Cavil, Cuvée R. Lalou 1998, which is styled as a “wine dedicated to gastronomy”, was launched at the request of sommeliers and chefs. “We are focusing on France and the UK, where we are known among the gastronomic community and have the strongest distribution networks”, he adds.

Fans of the original cuvée will notice that Cuvée R. Lalou 1998 has not been bottled in the distinctive ridged bottle used by Cuvée René Lalou as the bottle design was sold to the Vranken-Pommery Monopole group.

Didier Mariotti and Olivier Cavil will be hosting the UK launch next Tuesday at The Ritz.

© db 13 June 2007 (Fionnuala Synnott)

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