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Champagne GH Mumm cellar master Laurent Fresnet dies

Champagne is mourning the passing of one of the region’s best-loved and experienced cellar masters following a short illness.

César Giron, CEO of GH Mumm, paid tribute to Laurent Fresnet in a statement issued by the house:

‘Acknowledged by all for his authenticity, his generosity, his kindness and his communicative energy, Laurent Fresnet was beloved by everyone. He brought to Mumm his passion for wine, his affection for the terroir and his vision of excellence. He added an important chapter to the history of the house.’

Fresnet grew up in the Champagne village of Sillery, on the northern face of the Montagne de Reims.

He studied in Champagne, then worked for Champagne Claude Cazals in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger and at La Vigneronne co-operative in Vertus.

Following these roles, his 13 years at the helm of Champagne Henriot saw the house steadily raise its standing in the region.

Fresnet also cemented his own reputation as one of the region’s top winemakers. He is responsible for some of Henriot’s best-regarded wines in recent times, including the Cuve 38 magnums and the refinement of the prestige cuvée, Cuvée Hemera.

After GH Mumm cellar master Didier Mariotti moved to Veuve Clicquot in 2019, Fresnet subsequently took the reins at the house. GH Mumm, together with sister house Perrier-Jouët, is the sixth largest producer in the region.

Fresnet’s creative mindset very quickly found an outlet, with the house partnering with neuroscientist Gabriel Lepousez and designer Octave de Gaulle to offer guests a unique sensory experience that highlighted the house’s fascination with Pinot Noir.

By showing the same wine in specially designed glasses of different colours, contours and weights, alongside carefully selected aromas highlighting different stages in the winemaking process, Fresnet gave visitors a glimpse of the imaginative, inquisitive and meticulous mindset that characterised his life’s work in Champagne.

Fresnet and Mumm marked the post-pandemic ‘re-opening’ of Champagne in 2022 with a celebration of the house’s most treasured older magnums in the Moulin de Verzenay, the emblematic windmill that looks down over Fresnet’s home town of Sillery in the Pinot Noir vineyards that Fresnet knew so intimately.

It was an event that left a mark on the attendees, not only because of the wines themselves but also for the wide-ranging, thoughtful and warm discussion that followed.

As Champagne journalist Sophie Claeys reported, Fresnet was known for his ‘kindness, conviviality and humour’, he was happy to share his work with anyone that shared his passion.

This is something Champagne writer Tom Stevenson knew well: ‘When I last met Laurent in May 2022, he asked me whether there was any particular vintage I would like to taste to finish up with. I said the 1955 in magnum, of course, because it’s the greatest Mumm vintage in living memory. “Give me a minute”, he said, and 20 minutes later he returned, dripping with sweat, magnum in hand. It was tucked in a corner over a kilometre away in the cellars and he had run both ways!’

As a native Champenois from a family of growers, Fresnet’s ethos was grounded very much in the relationships with the house’s own vineyards and the growers he worked with.

Paying tribute, GH Mumm said Fresnet was ‘recognised by his peers in Champagne for his pragmatic approach, his remarkable knowledge of terroir and his expertise in appreciating the potential of each wine.’

His legacy will have a long life in the cellars and glasses of Champagne lovers worldwide.

Our thoughts are with Laurent Fresnet’s family and colleagues at this time.

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