Mumm’s the word


Sorry I can’t figure out how to flip my pix around.
For this once, it’s OK.
The bottle (which has lain for years on its side) is resting in peace…and my kitchen is 90 degrees off….
I found t it about a year or two ago in an over-filled residential dumpster on Sais Avenue, San Anselmo.
Someone had cleaned out a house where an old person lived and died. She or he left behind a few seemingly nice bottles of booze…the kind you put aside for a special occasion.

Only it never came!….Evidence that life is indeed too short.
Having dessert first–and perhaps even Champagne for breakfast in ones’ later years wouldn’t be completely off the mark…

I dug further and found some 1970s port, expensive vodka, and a few reds. No bottles had shattered.

All were hot from laying in the summer sun.

I sped back to the Taj Mahovel Recovery Room (the crawl space under the house).

Since then, I enjoyed each from that trove, fabricating limoncello, risotto, Irish cream liqueur, even just swallowed a couple neat… save one.

Until now I was too scared to try the Mumm’s.

I ‘d never heard of ‘antique’ Champagne, and like your average person, understood that super-young was the only way to have it. Crispy, light, dry with very little fruit discernible.

Turns out that the stuff can age, as long as its laying on its side (“on the lees”) in a carefully controlled environment free from light or vibration.
While Champagne makers have an economic interest in selling more wine by convincing us it’s best consumed within the year, much Champagne improves with some [cork] aging.

Jancis Robinson notes that some Champagnes can become significantly more complex with aging on the cork–“if they are properly stored”.

I imagined the jolt inflicted on the stiff-upper-lipped Mumm’s, hurled over the dumpster’s edge and coming to rest atop sofa-cushions, baling wire, wood chips, shoe boxes, golf clubs, plastic flowers, dishware, shoes and other junk.
That bottle was meant for me, and intended to be enjoyed despite its sketchy background.

For the slimmest of reasons I decided to open it up today: as a budget tribute to the great and ever so humble, complex and intense Sheldon Brown.

Ian (“evolnollidge”) and I had ridding earlier in the afternoon, though we attracted no other ‘Sheldonysians”.
His four year old, Kai, braved the rude winds and entertained himself in the back seat of dad’s Dutch bike by doing a reasonable imitation of our prattle.

I like to think Sheldon would have appreciated the toasty “maderized’ notes in the bottle I literally broke into.

A crumbling broken cork meant no dramatic pop; the color was a dark amber with superfine bubbles racing in thin lines up the glass. A candy aroma hovered over the surface and I realized I was going to be amazed with my ‘find’. I got to experience what “maderization” is, and how a Maillard reaction can improve what’s left during the years on the cork.

For once Charlie didn’t make a face after one tiny sip. I can offer no greater accolade from a non-drinker to whom everything one imbibes and ingests must have a Nutrititve Purpose.

Burnt bread, raisins and even some brandy flavor dwelled in the light-red brown liquor.

It was a revelation….complex and rewarding.

Heaven knows the price was right…here’s Mumm’s in your eye, Sheldon!



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