Mumm and its Cordon Rouge : the story...
In the summer of 1876, at the Moulin de la Galette guinguette, young men in boaters courted the ladies, danced the waltz and got drunk at the Piccolo for 5 centimes a glass.
Meanwhile, gents in black frock coats and top hats, the sales agents from the Georges Hermann Mumm & Co Champagne House were scouting the royal and grand-ducal courts of Europe.
In fact, few were the tables where a bottle of G. H. Mumm & Co. bottle was not present on grand occasions. It was so beautiful and so prestigious! Clad in a large red cap lined with white ermine, bearing the imperial crown, it reflected the values of an eternal aristocracy.
In the France of the Third Republic, 1876 was a very exciting year. The general election of February brought Bonapartists, monarchists and republicans face to face, but above all, revealed the existence of a new industrial bourgeoisie who was dismantling popular beliefs as well as aristocratic models.
This put the Champagne House in a tricky position. Most of the sales came from export markets, mainly from the courts of the great and good... But boasting of being a supplier to the Royals could work against it in the short term... This new bourgeoisie had great influence and wealth.
The official history of the brand tells us that this was when the “Genius Saviour” of the Champagne House stepped in. The father of one of its respected sales agents, this inspired ancestor is said to have declared: "Decorate your bottles with the Legion of Honour, they’ll sell much better!”.
No sooner said than done! The Champagne House dropped the heavy red ermine cap and instead emphasized the shoulders of the bottle with a bright red silk ribbon... and it also pinned the imperial eagle to the chest. The new concept was protected at the Commercial Court of Reims on 16 November 1876... And its success was almost immediate.
A pretty cool story!
Synonymous with excellence
This ribbon is certainly evocative of the Third Republic’s most prestigious civil and military decorations, but it also bears a resemblance to the former Royal and Military Order of Saint-Louis. The two sashes are visually identical. So much so that being “a red ribbon” signified being decorated with either of these Orders.
These values of excellence were also those espoused by the kingdoms and duchies that were the G. H. Mumm & Co. Champagne House’s clientele. The red sash was often their signature from the Most Honourable Order of the Bath in the U.K. to the Order of Saint Alexander Nevsky in Russia...
Clever, right?! Excellence is universal and timeless.
Whether a nostalgic Bonapartist, a monarchist or a fervent defender of the Republic... everyone aspires to the values of the Cordon Rouge.
And an eagle...
The Imperial Eagle emblem is printed on the bottle next to the red ribbon. But instead of cannons or lightning between its claws, it holds a laurel wreath. A nod to Mumm's sales empire perhaps?
Nowadays, young girls no longer dream of being queens or duchesses and our Keeper of the Seals himself has turned down the Legion of Honour...
In 2016, aware of this erosion in cultural customs, the G. H. Mumm Champagne House unveiled a new embossed bottle, bringing a new lease of life to “Le Grand Cordon” and its marketing strategy. The famous ribbon is actually indented in the glass. It now symbolizes a stream of red grapes, the very essence of champagne .
As for the imperial eagle, it has recovered its legendary attributes, it is watchful and sharp-eyed. It is the eagle that now proudly bears G. H. Mumm's motto: "Only the best".
...Flying into space
Up, up, and away... The brand new Mumm Grand Cordon Stellar bottle is ready to accompany travellers into zero gravity.
Article written as part of an educational project of the Wine Journalism University Diploma of the Georges Chappaz Institute - University of Reims