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“The RSRV range is above all a matter of emotions, a state of mind. More than just wine, each RSRV champagne is a moment shared with those you love.”
Champagne house G.H. Mumm has done something rather shocking. It’s released not just one but four new wines in one stroke, and there’s a fifth on the way. To further complicate matters, one of them is a re-branding of an existing wine: the Mumm de Cramant Blanc de Blancs Non-Vintage. This is being re-released as a vintage wine.
First, there are two RSRV wines (a short-hand for ‘reserve’, it seems): 2012 RSRV Grand Cru Blancs de Blancs (100% chardonnay from Cramant; it would retail for AUD $225 but has been earmarked for restaurants), and 2008 RSRV Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs (100% pinot noir from Verzenay; AUD $240 theoretical retail price). These are very good, but the blanc de noirs is my favourite because if its richness and matured complexity. The blanc de blancs is still very tight, lean, restrained and singular: the classic ‘solo violin’ as opposed to the ‘full orchestra’, which would be a typical Champagne blend of regions and grape varieties. When I opined that the wine seemed a little young to be released, Didier disagreed, saying its shorter ageing was “to keep the spirit of the wine”.
Next, there are two Edition Limitée wines. These are non-vintage blends, which have been given extended time aging on their yeast sediments. Edition Limitée 4 Ans en Cave (four years in the cellar; AUD $80 retail; exclusive to Dan Murphy’s) has a lot of brioche-like aromas and is soft and rounded and highly accessible; Edition Limitée 6 Ans en Cave (AUD $95; exclusive to BWS stores) has terrific richness, generosity and character. Didier says these are different blends, both with about 70% pinot noir and the rest chardonnay, no meunier, plus some reserve wines. They are a significant step up from the Cordon Rouge and are sourced from higher-rated vineyards.
Those four are the new releases; they will be joined by a rosé in a few months.
The Champagne harvest 2013– late, but potentially outstanding
It has been another strange year for Champagne, starting with a cold, wet winter, followed by a gloomy, chilly spring with a lot of rain. Vine development started two weeks behind the ten-year average, and never made up for that lost time.
Along the way came a hot dry summer, boosting fruit quality thanks to the most sunshine ever recorded in Champagne in July and August.
Rain came from 6 September onwards, which helped to fatten the berries - then fortunately stopped in time to allow good conditions for final ripening. Considering the lateness of the harvest, the weather this year was exceptionally good – almost summer-like with unusually warm temperatures and sunshine, and a wind from the east to help keep the grapes healthy.
It was a year of big differences in the timing of the harvest, with picking in the most precocious plots starting on 24 September and in the slower-ripening areas on 9 October. Most plots commenced harvesting in the first days of October – the latest start date seen in Champagne for two decades.
Bearing in mind the economic situation, Champagne's governing body has set the yield limit at 10,000 kilos per hectare. Most crus should achieve this yield, excepting only a few that were partially affected by millerandage (shot berries), hailstorms and botrytis.
An average potential alcohol of nearly 10% ABV and good acidity averaging around 8.5g H2SO4 per litre together suggest a promising balance for the eventual wine. The Champenois are already drawing favourable comparisons with the vintages of 1983, 1988 and 1998 – these too being the product of late harvests.