For many Americans, champagne has always been reserved for moments of iconic joy: celebrations and special occasions only. Given champagne’s seemingly physical manifestation of joy with its golden color and pop of bubbles, it makes sense.
But today, we’re witnessing a shift in the perception of champagne- toward one of consistency, crispness, and of course, effervescence- serious and sophisticated taste profiles suitable for the lunch or dinner table. Champagne has emerged as a strong contender for daily drinking, and no reasonable sommelier would criticize you for choosing to select a bubbly sip along with your main course.
In order to make the case, guests joined Laurent Fresnet, Cellar Master at G. H. Mumm, for a Tasting Encounter: a chance to sample a variety of the house’s most cherished wines along with a series of beautiful dishes, ultimately demonstrating the capabilities of champagne. Here’s what we drank and ate:
Champagne: G.H. Mumm RSRV Cuvée Lalou 2006
Paired with: Rigatoni with lamb, artichoke, and feta
Notes: This wine is a story of minerals and one of the top offerings from Mumm. The meaty artichoke plays flawlessly against this earthy composition of apples and stone fruit while the cheese is a natural pairing, if not a bit amusing with the chalky feta attacking this acidic pour, never landing a single punch. According to Mr. Fresnet, 2006 was an “unbelievable” year for champagne, and its shared boldly in this ripe wine. This RSRV designation indicates a unique blend of five of Maison Mumm’s Grand Cru terroirs. The lighter character of lamb worked politely with this champagne, countering claims that champagne is ill-suited for consumption with many proteins. Solid pairing, would recommend.
Shop RSRV Cuvée Lalou 2006 from $145.00 at mumm.com
Champagne: G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge Vinothéque 1961
Paired with: Seared tuna with broccoli, pine nut, tahini, and chili as well as a variety of cheeses.
Notes: While the cellar master is his principle work, Laurent Fresnet is also the guardian of the Mumm Oenothèque, a library of old vintages that have been the subject of meticulous care from the moment they were cellared. The signature Cordon Rouge of 1961 is one such wine, containing decades of history and preservation. To even think of serving this wine with food could astound, but with remarkable effervescence after all this time, the 1961 was well suited to the seared tuna, being particularly activated by the pine nut, which offered a textural contrast to the honey-tinged notes of the champagne. The historical context made this course a bit overwhelming, in a good way.
The Cordon Rouge was again served with a classic selection of cheeses supplemented by honeycomb, rhubarb, and apricot. All together, these accompaniments with this archival champagne felt incredibly refined and indulgent; the flavors naturally sweet and luxurious, and the situation feeling deeply French. High marks.
Champagne: G.H. Mumm RSRV Rosé Foujita
Paired with: Dark chocolate tart with dulce de leche ganache and vanilla ice cream.
Notes: A civil affair, the RSRV Rosé Foujita is a blend of six Grand Cru terroirs, bringing together Pinot Noir from Verzenay, Aÿ and Bouzy, and Chardonnay from Cramant and Avize. Red wine from Ambonnay, another Grand Cru village, is added to the blend. Together, there is a fullness and intensity on the palate, as well as aromas of red and black fruit. This Rosé played smoothly against the dark chocolate, where notes of cherry and raspberry managed to push toward the front. This feels like the X-rated version of a classic dessert wine. I couldn’t help but feel a bit scandalous. High marks.
Shop RSRV Rosé Foujita from $85.00 at mumm.com