The historic launch of the Mumm champagne house took place on March 1, 1827, when three German brothers, Gottlieb (1782-1852), Jacobus (1779-1835) and Philipp Mumm (1782-1842) from Hesse and Friedrich Giesler from the Rhineland, together with a Mr. G. Heuser (presumably also of German descent) founded a company called P. A. Mumm & Co. The 'P. A.' refers to the wealthy father of the three brothers, Peter-Arnold Mumm (1733-1797), who had already founded a wine trade in the Rhineland in 1761. Historian François Bonal notes that Mr. Heuser also already owned a well-established wine trading house in the middle of Reims and was therefore also well versed in champagne. Moreover, Mr. Heuser was married to a lady from Champagne.
At the beginning, the young company lacked its own production sites and vineyards. What was not lacking, however, was enormous ambition in building up a network of good vintners and suppliers in the Champagne region, to whom Mr. Heuser from the beginning put the uncompromising striving for highest quality at heart - even if the basic wines were to be more expensive for the house of Mumm to purchase. As early as in the year of its foundation, the young Mumm house succeeded in exporting a considerable amount of champagne to Germany, Belgium, England, and Russia. I assume that precious trade contacts of the well-established wine trade of Peter Arnold Mumm, the father, might have benefited the young company in Reims. So it happened that the young P. A. Mumm & Co. was able to deliver a remarkable 69,825 bottles in its founding year. At the beginning, it was not only champagne but mainly still white, rosé and red wines.
Mr. Heuser apparently no longer belonged to the still young house after 1830. Mr. Giesler left the house of Mumm in 1837 to found his own champagne house. In 1838, the house P. A. Mumm & Co. in Reims was internally reorganized and was from then on firmly in the hands of the Mumm family. After the death of one of the founders, Gottlieb Mumm, there were disagreements between the partners in 1852. This resulted in two Mumm houses in Reims. Georges Hermann Mumm, son of Gottlieb Mumm, the brother originally involved in the foundation, now founded G. H. Mumm & Co. Jules Mumm, (1809-1863), son of the original founder Jacobus Mumm, now traded as Jules Mumm & Co. Although independent by now, both houses remained in close contact with the house of Peter Arnold Mumm in Germany. Marriages and partnerships between the Mumm family and members of important families in Champagne and Germany created strategically useful links with the nobility. The Mumm family was eventually elevated to the nobility itself. Influential families such as de Bary and von Guaita came into play. However, Jules Mumm & Co. floundered financially around 1903 and was dissolved in 1910, with G. H. Mumm and Co. partially buying out the former firm (including the 'Jules Mumm' brand). A meteoric rise of the house of G. H. Mumm & Co. followed. Shortly before World War I, the house of Mumm was already delivering 3 million bottles of champagne per year.
While some other champagnes nowadays proudly mention their status as official suppliers of one or the other royal court on the label, Mumm was a preferred supplier to many royal (e.g. Belgium, Denmark, England, Norway, Austria-Hungary, Prussia and Sweden) as well as ducal courts (e.g. Hesse-Darmstadt, Oldenburg) as early as 1890. There used to be a special Mumm label which proudly depicted many of the sovereign coats of arms.
It is also remarkable that the house of Mumm apparently owned only a very small vineyard around Verzenay (0.23 ha) until 1880. As late as in 1882, Mumm bought 7.6 hectares in the precious wine town of Cramant. In 1914, the house already owned almost 50 ha of vineyards. Far more vineyards were to follow later. Winegrowing in the Champagne region was an extremely costly undertaking at the time. Apart from the already unpredictable climate in the Champagne region, which can still cause extensive damage today with storms, hail, rain and frost, the vines were constantly exposed to a large number of nasty pests, which the winegrowers had to fight constantly with laborious manual work. Vines were also secured at that time with wooden posts (instead of, as later, with wire strands), which had to be tamped into the ground in wind and weather by vineyard workers with heavy wooden breastplates. Often the harvests turned out to be quantitatively small or of inferior quality. Thus, it is understandable that several champagne houses rather devoted themselves to the purchase of basic wines and vines than to the laborious and economically risky viticulture.
At Mumm, attention was paid to the quality of the base wines and the proper production of the champagnes from early on. Historian Patrick Forbes notes that as early as in 1836, Mumm imported several huge barrels with a capacity of 12,000 liters each from the Rhine Palatinate, which were used for the first fermentation. At the same time, modern grape presses were installed. As early as in the 1850s, Mumm also started to build large cellars deep in the limestone, which ensured an optimal storage of the champagnes.
When Germany declared war on France in 1914, Georges Hermann (von) Mumm was still a German citizen. This now suddenly became his undoing. He was arrested, taken away and imprisoned together with other Germans in Reims. The house G. H. Mumm & Co. was confiscated as a whole in the same year. Mr. Mumm's former sales manager and formerly close associate, Georges Robinet (1869-1953), volunteered to look after the fate of the house during the turbulent war years. He himself came from a long-established and respected family in Champagne. The subject 'champagne' was well known to him in detail by lifelong practice.
After the war, the house and its brands were auctioned in 1920. The bid went to a group called 'Société Vinicole de Champagne', whose board of directors appointed Georges Robinet (still) as manager for the house. Until 1940, he steered the fate of the house of Mumm extremely successfully. During his tenure, he brought the French brand 'Cordon Rouge' to the fore with clever marketing and let the German-sounding name 'Mumm' fade into the background. At the time, he feared that the German name 'Mumm' might hinder sales.
During the First World War, Robinet had met a lawyer from Paris named René Lalou, who was responsible for supplying champagne to the French soldiers at the front during his military service. The two men later became close friends. René Lalou had married a lady from the Dubonnet family in 1904. An Emile Dubonnet was on the current board of the House of Mumm. Due to his achievements and family connections, Lalou was appointed to the board in 1929, where, among other things, he specifically strengthened the financial basis of the house. Already in the 1920s - the 'Roaring Twenties' - the house had completely stabilized again. At the beginning of the 1930ies, the Mumm house was stronger than ever - more vineyards were purchased and high-quality champagnes were produced. Nothing seemed to stand in the way of a successful future - until World War II broke out.
Between 1940 and 1944, Champagne was occupied by the German Wehrmacht. A German 'Beauftragter für den Weinimport Frankreich' named Otto Klaebisch was responsible for the supervision of all Champagne wines. Among other things, he had to ensure the favorable purchase of champagnes, which were then sold in Germany and partly also abroad via Germany. In addition, he supplied the Wehrmacht with champagne. And he had to take care of the maintenance of the champagne production on site. Market-like negotiations with the houses and the Vichy government of occupied France were implemented. But champagne was also sometimes simply confiscated if necessary. Champagne production itself continued. In the vernacular of Champagne at that time, Klaebisch was called the 'leader of Champagne'. Not a single bottle of champagne could be sold without his permission. At first, some winemakers mistakenly believed they could fool Klaebisch with inferior champagnes. However, Klaebisch, who came from the Rheingau region, was very familiar with champagne, sparkling wine and wine in general, especially since he had worked for a sparkling wine house before the war. It should also be noted that his brother-in-law Joachim von Ribbentrop was Foreign Minister of the German Reich. Von Ribbentrop worked as a champagne representative in Germany before his political career. Approximately 320 million bottles of the noble beverage were shipped to the German Reich as early as 1940.
At that time, a Mr. Godefroy Hermann von Mumm, the son of Georges Hermann von Mumm, born in Reims in 1908, contacted the Société Vinicole de Champagne in Paris. According to the historian François Bonal, he informed René Lalou, the chairman, that he was now superfluous because from now on, there would be no chairman anymore. At the same time, he gave him to understand clearly that the House of Mumm was his family home. On the same day he also appeared in Reims and dismissed Georges Robinet without notice. In the following time he made himself a name as an able leader of the house Mumm, who took care of his employees in an exemplary way. For the children of the employees, a recreational facility was built in Verzenay. He also succeeded in freeing almost all the employees who had been taken prisoner by the Germans during the war. Despite the difficult times, he was able to deliver between 1 and 1.5 million bottles of champagne per year. One 'major customer' was the Wehrmacht. The labels for this had to be marked, according to the regulations, with 'Wehrmachts- Marketenderware Verkauf im freien Handel verboten' and 'Réservé à la Wehrmacht Achat et revente interdits'. Buying and selling these champagnes on the civilian market was strictly forbidden.
In the domestic market France, the champagne sales went well for the house Mumm, in 1942 with 370,000 bottles of champagne even very well. The above-mentioned concern of Mr. Robinet about the German name Mumm in the marketing within France was thus probably misplaced. Many big export customers like for instance the USA could not be served at that time, of course. Deliveries to neutral countries were strictly monitored and limited in quantity. In the weeks following the bloody battles of June 6, 1944 in Normandy (D-Day), many French people in Champagne were already expecting France to be liberated by the Allied forces. In August 1944, Godefroy Hermann von Mumm said goodbye to his employees in perfect French with the wish that they should never forget that Mumm was a great name which should continue to assert itself on the world market through the performance of its employees - a wish which, in retrospect, may be considered fulfilled today. Immediately afterwards von Mumm was taken prisoner in England. On May 7, 1945 (VE-Day), a simple schoolroom in Reims, General Eisenhower's headquarters, became known as the 'Salle de Reddition' when the unconditional surrender of all German forces was signed.
After the war, the Société Vinicole de Champagne took over the House of Mumm again.
In 1946, the name of the house was changed to 'G. H. Mumm & Co, Société Vinicole de Champagne, Successeurs'. This long name appeared in full on Mumm labels for many decades. René Lalou was also back - not only as chairman on the board, but also as plant manager. Immediately after the war, the Allied military in particular was a major customer of the house. In the 50ies of the 20th century, the demand for Mumm champagnes increased enormously. At the same time, Mumm expanded its vineyard holdings considerably and grew steadily. In the 60s, there were around 3 million, in the 70s 6 million bottles. In 1979, there were already almost 9 million bottles of champagne. René Lalou implemented the old strategy of adapting flavours to different export markets - similar to the times of kings and tsars. With the quality of legendary cuvées from the house of Mumm as a basis, the dosage of contemporary taste trends was specifically adapted to the important export countries. At times, there was a 'Goût Americain', which emphasized the flavors popular in the USA.
René Lalou died in 1973 at the ripe old age of 96. For many years after his death, he was still honored with a special Champagne René Lalou, whose recipe he had composed himself a few years before his death. Apart from the royal mother in England (her favourite champagne!), this champagne regularly scored beyond 90 points among internationally renowned connoisseurs.
In 1955, the Canadian Seagram Distillers Corporation entered the company with a share purchase. The president of Seagram at that time, Samuel Bronfman (1889-1971), joined the board of directors of Mumm in 1959. Considerable expansion urge became apparent as early as in the same year: 79% of the famous champagne house Perrier-Jouët was taken over. Although independent of each other, the two houses decided to take care of their vineyards together and to share certain equipment and production facilities. In 1972, the House of Mumm took a stake in the equally famous House of Heidsieck and Co Monopole, first with 84%, then in 1980 with 99%, and took over the house completely in 1985.
In the meantime, the company was also called 'Mumm Group', although the different houses remained largely independent in the management and production of their champagnes. In 1985, Seagram took a majority share in the Mumm Group with 91%. In 1999, the American Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst group bought out the G. H. Mumm house. At the time of this report, the G.H. Mumm champagne house belongs to the British Allied Domecq group.
Even from far away, you can recognize the famous diagonal red band on the labels of the Mumm champagne house. Despite 8,000 other champagne brands and more than 1.5 billion bottles of various sparkling wines from all over the world, Mumm still successfully asserts itself as a giant among champagne producers. How does Mumm manage to inspire countless people in more than 100 countries year after year with more than 9 million bottles of champagne? In order to find an answer to this question, one has to take a closer look at the house of Mumm, as this long-term success is based on much more than just excellent champagne.
Although champagne is a matter of course at honours for top achievements or in the context of festive occasions of various kinds, Mumm champagne in particular is considered indispensable in many circles - and that worldwide! Since 1827, Mumm has succeeded in finding not only 'customers' but also countless friends and admirers.
Mumm champagne has long been associated with aviation. At the last birthday of the famous American pilot Chauncey Spencer, for example, there was a Rehoboam bottle of Mumm Cordon Rouge. How apt that Mumm was the sponsor of this celebration, because Mumm was already in 1909 the sponsor of the big 'pilot's prize' at the famous airplane competition during the then 'Great Week of Champagne' near Reims. Already before, in 1907, Mumm donated 100 bottles of champagne to the legendary Wilbur Wright Aero Club in the USA.
However, Mumm has a traditional connection not only to aviation, but also to the sea. Mumm has always been extremely popular for ship christenings. Mumm also appears in international sailing as sponsor of the Admiral's Cup, Sailing Tour de France and can be found in designs such as the renowned Mumm 30 yachts. And in motor sports, such as Formula 1, Mumm cannot be missing either.
Champagne from the house of Mumm also came to honour in many films. In the classic film Casablanca (1942), for example, the nightclub owner 'Rick' (Humphrey Bogart) shows the world how to enjoy a champagne with a beauty like 'Ilsa' (Ingrid Bergman). In comics we encounter the red ribbon on the bottle in 'Tintin' or on the amphora of 'Asterix'.
In addition, Mumm has maintained a supportive relationship with the arts for many years. The Offenbach operetta 'La Périchole' is often accompanied by the 'Cordon Rouge Ballet'. Mumm flowed into the glasses of many famous artists, such as Braque, Foujita, Matisse, Maillol and Picabia, at the opening of the Coupole in Montparnasse. The characteristic cordon rouge ribbon came into its own in works by Yves Brayer, Terechkovitch, Chapelain-Midy, Jean Carzou ,Michael Huggins and Utrillo. The famous Japanese artist Tsuguharu-Léonard Foujita (1886-1968) was particularly closely associated with Mumm. A nice digression on this at this point:
A 'champagne rose' created by Foujita adorned a special Mumm Cuvée Olympique, intended for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. This delicate rose, which was to live for only one morning, henceforth adorned the Mumm rosé in the bottle neck label for some 30 years. Earlier, Foujita had created a magnificent painting called Vierge à la vigne (Virgin of the Vines) for a former head of the House of Mumm, René Lalou (1877-1973). Fujita later reintegrated the rose motif in a painting called La petite fille à la rose (The little girl with the rose).
Foujita was a Buddhist by birth. One day, at an already advanced age, he lit a candle in the cathedral of Saint Rémi in Rheims in the Buddhist tradition. At that moment he had an epiphany and suddenly let out "I want to become a Christian!". In October 1959, he converted to the Catholic faith and was baptized in the cathedral with his wife Kimiyo. Henceforth 'Léonard' was added to his name and 'Marie-Ange' to that of his wife. His godparents were Monsieur René Lalou, then head of the House of Mumm, and Madame François Taittinger. Moved by this religious event, René Lalou purchased a plot of land near the headquarters of the House of Mumm in Reims and financed the construction of the Notre Dame de la Paix chapel. In the summer of 1966, Foujita, already in his 80th year and thus a year before his death, began high up on scaffolding to decorate the chapel with Christian frescoes depicting scenes from the Old and New Testaments. For three months, every day from seven in the morning until seven at night, he devoted himself to this task. After its completion, the chapel was given to the city of Reims.
Foujita was buried near Paris after his death. A full 30 years later, his wife (by now living in Japan again) discovered one of his old diaries, from which she was surprised to find his last wishes in an entry from 1964. His wishes were to build a chapel, to spend part of his life there creating frescoes, and ultimately to be buried in it with his wife. The city of Reims fulfilled his wish in 2003 by reburying his mortal remains in this chapel. Today it is considered a cultural insider tip for tourists in Reims.
An advantage for the brand is that the original German name 'Mumm' also has a very positive connotation in English: Many Canadians like to refer to their mother colloquially as 'Mum'. In England and the U.S., almost everyone knows the age-old phrase 'Mum's the word!' (synonymous with 'Silence is golden!'). As early as the 1930s, Mumm translated this phrase into the clever advertising slogan 'Mumm's the word!'. The name 'Mumm' is also memorable because it is very short and 75% of the letters represent an 'M'.
According to the renowned historian François Bonal, the idea of the red ribbon, the Cordon Rouge, which has become a trademark, came from the father of a Mumm representative (Welby Jordan) from Paris at that time. Around 1870, he advised Georg Hermann von Mumm to decorate the bottles with the red ribbon of the Legion of Honor (Légion d'honneur). Subsequently, in 1875, bottles were decorated for the first time with a red satin ribbon around the neck of the bottle. The crossed ends of the ribbon were given a seal with the words 'Cordon Rouge'. Right away, this idea was a marketing hit. By 1881, the red ribbon had become indispensable. In 1883, Mumm registered a label design as a trademark, which included the diagonal red ribbon with the words 'Cordon Rouge', replacing the previous satin ribbons. To this day, the label design for Mumm Cordon Rouge has remained essentially unchanged.
Mumm Cordon Rouge has also been popular in the Middle Kingdom since 1979, especially since the red stripe is considered a symbol of happiness in China. Over the decades, however, Mumm also brought out 'cordons' in other colors, which illustrated different flavors. For many years, for instance, the Mumm demi-sec champagnes were marked by a cordon vert, that is, by a green band.
Images of various 'Mumm Cordons' of times past from my label collection. You can click on the labels for a closer study.
An eagle is generally represented discreetly on Mumm labels. The eagle actually had its origin in the emblem of Napoleon III. Certainly, this eagle also has a subconsciously sympathetic effect on citizens of those states that symbolically associate their nation with an eagle.
But much more important for a champagne brand is what is in the bottle. The champagne must be right! Also in this respect, Mumm does not disappoint anyone. On the contrary: Mumm champagnes have been scoring regularly in the 80s and 90s range for years, even in the present. Moreover, Mumm champagnes remain affordable for everyone, even abroad, despite high customs duties in many places. In the USA, the vintageless Cordon Rouge can be bought for just under 30 euro. To cover the enormous demand of the world market for Mumm champagne and to maintain the quality at the same time was and is no easy undertaking.
Mumm has always been known as a modern house that uses advanced methods of production, but without violating the strict laws and principles of champagne production. For example, as early as during the 60s of the 20th century, the traditional (heavy) wicker baskets used for harvesting were replaced by plastic containers, which are easier to clean, much lighter and moreover stackable. The gyro pallet for automatically shaking the champagne bottles has been integrated into Mumm's production process since the 1970s. With progress in mind, the House of Mumm created a department called G.C.E.V. in 1971. (Groupement Champenois d'Exploitation Viticole). The tasks of this department are the testing and implementation of advanced viticultural techniques and the close cooperation with French and international research institutions. In the 1980s, for example, a laser-controlled planting machine was developed and successfully implemented. In addition, Mumm has always strived for efficient organization and social welfare in its human resources. For many people, harvesting at Mumm is an age-old family tradition. They come from all over, often with the whole family. Even grandmothers can be found, who not infrequently have been participating in the harvest for half a century. According to the historian François Bonal, the long-time head of the House of Mumm, René Lalou, once humorously remarked that as the godfather of all the babies born during the harvest, he would never be able to buy the necessary Christmas presents even with all his belongings.
Incidentally, the huge cellars of the house do not represent limestone tunnels from Roman times, but were built by Mumm himself over the course of seven decades.
Mumm is in the advantageous position of owning many precious vineyards in Champagne. With 219 hectares of its own vineyards in the best areas such as Ambonnay, Avenay, Avize, Aÿ, Bouzy, Cramant, Chambrécy, Vaudemanges and Mailly, the house of Mumm can cover over 20% of the demand for grapes itself. The rest of the demand comes from more than 600 suppliers, most of which own Grand Cru vineyards.
For the assemblage of the champagnes, the cellar masters have precious wines from up to 80 crus in more than 1,200 containers at their disposal. Consequently, Mumm has always offered an interesting selection of champagnes (which has also changed somewhat over the decades):
The big international hit from the house of Mumm remains, of course, the Cordon Rouge. It makes up about 85% of the total production. This is a champagne without vintage, which is composed in the assemblage of about 40 - 45% Pinot Noir, about 20% Pinot Meunier, about 25% Chardonnay and about 10-15% reserve wine from older vintages. Thanks to the predominantly represented high quality Pinot Noir vines, fruit notes (citrus, pears, peach and many more) and good structure are noticeable. The Chardonnay vines give it the wings of elegance, and the Pinot Meunier grapes complete the blend with their spicy freshness of vanilla and honey. Mumm Cordon Rouge is aged on its lees for 3 years after the second fermentation. While this is infinitely longer than the mandated 15 months, it is just long enough to be exceptionally youthful, fresh and fragrant with the primary flavors of the original vines still intact. The Cordon Rouge is thus extraordinarily popular as an aperitif. It is also considered an elegant accompaniment to food, especially to those dishes that are not too hearty (ideal, for example, with fish and poultry dishes). In the US market, champagne lovers will find the typical Brut as well as the 'Extra Dry' (Carte Classique) variant, which is a slightly sweeter champagne than the Brut.
With the Mumm Rosé, the racy Pinot Noir grape in its natural splendour comes to the fore with approx. 60%. Accompanied by approx. 20% Pinot Meunier and approx. 20% Chardonnay, the connoisseur is presented with a well-balanced champagne. With its strong Pinot Noir backbone, it goes well with almost any meal. Especially with meat dishes, it convinces besides its strength additionally with its distinctive pink color, which is created by adding still red wine.
In years when nature imprints a special harmony in the vines, the cellar masters at Mumm honour this by creating special vintage champagnes. At the moment (2004), the Cordon Rouge 1996 presents itself as a drawing card at Mumm online. The 1996 is often mentioned among the 90s vintages besides the wonderful 1990s and 1995s. Connoisseurs pay high respect to it. Some wine critics even dare to compare the 1996 vintage with the legendary 1928 vintage. In this sense, the Cordon Rouge 1996 is a good choice among the vintage Champagnes, especially since it virtually bristles with the noble Pinot Noir of this year with 63% in the assemblage. The Chardonnay gives it finesse with its remaining 37%. Vines from the best Montagne de Reims and Côte des Blancs sites are used. Vintage champagnes from Mumm may seem closely related to their non-vintage brethren of the same name in terms of the name 'Cordon Rouge', but they are considered to be entirely their own. They exhibit more subtle power, maturity, pleasing complexity and backbone. Thus, the Cordon Rouge 1996 - just like the other Mumm Millésimé many decades before - can be considered as an excellent companion to almost every feast.
The rather rare vintage champagne Mumm Grand Cordon is also known in connoisseur circles. This is a top champagne purely from Grand Cru sites. Already in 1876, high-quality champagnes were prepared in beautifully decorated bottles in limited editions and then sent to some customers of the house. The Mumm Grand Cordon developed from this tradition. The 90er in the picture presents itself in a fantastically beautiful antique bottle with red satin ribbons.
The Mumm Demi-Sec is a relatively sweet champagne with 44g/l sugar. In the production of the Demi-Sec, the cellar masters grant the fresh, spicy Pinot Meunier with a whole 50% share the main role. It is rounded off with racy Pinot Noir (35%) and elegant Chardonnay (15%). Demi-sec champagnes are not only a nice choice to accompany (not overly sweet) desserts, but also go very well with Chinese 'sweet and sour' dishes, for example.
As the name promises, Mumm Grand Cru is a very special Champagne - created purely from the few 100% rated crus in Champagne! Finest Pinot Noir vines from Aÿ, Bouzy and Verzenay have 58% share. Best Chardonnay (42%) from Avize and Cramant complete the assemblage.
Then there is the rather rare Mumm de Cramant. In former times, it was called 'Mumm Crémant de Cramant'. The Mumm de Cramant is a sparkling wine, which is called crémant because it has a lower bottle pressure compared to the usual champagne. The Mumm de Cramant represents a particularly valuable cuvée of the house Mumm: Only the best Chardonnay vines from precious Mumm vineyards in the famous Grand Cru Cramant in the Côte des Blancs are used for its preparation. Among champagne connoisseurs, this always elegant charmer has long enjoyed high respect and is also considered an important reference point in the study of Blanc des Blancs in general. This lemon-colored Crémant with a remarkably creamy, delicate perlage beguiles connoisseurs with citrus and other fruity notes as well as with unusual freshness and gentle tingling on the palate. It is considered a good tip among champagne fans.
An old label of a 77cl bottle with the name 'Crémant de Cramant' at that time.
Champagne lovers and collectors come across vintage champagnes from the Mumm range of past times here and there. For instance, a vintage champagne named after René Lalou, the longtime director of the Mumm house, is considered to be excellent. This champagne is also said to have been the favorite champagne of her majesty the royal mother Elisabeth. The great René Lalou 85, for example, contains 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay.
The story of the champagne house Mumm seems like a thrilling novel.