I was intrigued to receive a couple of sparkling wine samples labelled “Mumm” but without the distinctive red sash of Mumm Champagne. I initially thought they were new labels, but on closer inspection, I discovered that the wines were made locally. Say hello to Mumm Marlborough. 

Why would a prestigious champagne house lend its brand to a large Kiwi wine producer, Pernod Ricard New Zealand, even if it is part of the French-owned global Pernod Ricard network. Pernod Ricard New Zealand already distributes Mumm Champagne in this country. Given their close relationship, it is easy to understand how this might give birth to a bouncing bubbly made from local grapes but with a French accent.

But wait, Pernod Ricard New Zealand already has a very good sparkling wine from a historical relationship with Champagne Deutz. It produces Deutz Marlborough Cuvée and associated brands (my favourite is Deutz Blanc de Blanc, a taut and toasty chardonnay-based fizz). Is there enough room in the New Zealand marketplace to profitably market two champagne-linked brands? What does Champagne Deutz make of the new kid in town?

Pernod Ricard’s chief winemaker, Jamie Marfell (pictured above), says Champagne Deutz is happy with the new arrangement and welcomes the involvement of Mumm. He says the two champagne houses have different styles, and the Marlborough wines that sport their brands are also distinctively different. 

The Deutz style is more chardonnay dominant, with less time spent on the yeast lees after bottle fermentation. That produces a fresher, more vibrant style of fizz.

Mumm’s house style has more pinot noir and includes a dash of pinot meunier. Those red grapes tend to make the wine taste richer and more full-bodied. 

Marfell says the French winemakers from the two champagne houses are not trying to make lookalike champagne from New Zealand but they do tend to favour their own house styles and the techniques that make each very different.

The use of reserve wines is one example. These are older wines that tend to be richer and more flavoursome. They punch above their weight in terms of adding character to the wine. For example, if you added equal parts of a one-year-old wine to a nine-year-old wine, you might reasonably expect it to taste like a five-year-old wine. In fact, it is more likely to taste like a six- or seven-year-old wine because the older component has greater influence. 

Deutz favours using 30% reserve wines while Mumm prefers 25%. Mumm Marlborough is currently using five-year-old base wine while Deutz Marlborough Cuvée is a slightly fresher two-year-old wine. Mumm likes its grapes picked earlier so the wine is punchier and fresher, whereas Deutz likes its grapes riper and its wine richer while still retaining elegance. 

Marfell admits to learning a lot from the French winemakers. I asked if they learned much from him. “Most of their grapes come from grower vineyards, whereas our sparkling wine grapes come from our own vineyards,” he says. “We are able to get more involved viticulturally and can observe and understand clonal differences, for example. I think they were a bit envious of that.”

When I talked to Marfell, his team were just two days away from picking their first grapes for sparkling wine. I asked him how the vintage was shaping up. “It is two weeks early and a light crop this year. I expect sauvignon blanc to be down by 25%. But the grapes in both Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay are looking beautiful.”

Bob’s Top Picks

Investment Wine

2019 Soho Reserve JC, Waiheke, $150

A blend of 77% merlot and 23% petit verdot. This wine is a tribute to the late John Carter, a New Zealand wine industry pioneer and Soho patriarch. From a top Waiheke vintage, it is a selection of the best barrels. Dense, elegant red wine with plum, dark berry, anise/spice, violet, chocolate/mocha, and spicy oak flavours. Smooth-textured wine that is delicious now but has the potential to develop very well with bottle age.

Weekend Wines

Top Sparkling 

Mumm Marlborough NV Brut Prestige, $35

A collaboration between Mumm and Pernod Ricard New Zealand. A blend of 46% pinot noir, 45% chardonnay and 9% pinot meunier. A delicately aromatic sparkler with lemon curd, citrus blossom and baguette crust flavours. Seamless wine with a seductively ethereal texture and delicious mouth-tingling acidity. Quite champagne-like.

Top Pink

Mumm Marlborough 2015 Vintage Rosé, $40

Made from 100% pinot noir grapes with three years’ bottle age on the yeast lees. A pretty pale-pink hue. Quite a fruit-forward wine with cherry, strawberry and subtle nutty yeast-lees flavours supported by crisp acidity.

Read more from Bob at therealreview.com