As a boy, long before he dreamed of becoming Mumm Napa Head Winemaker, Ludovic Dervin often disappeared into the natural world surrounding him in France’s Champagne region. His childhood escapades included everything from hide and seek, to foraging for mushrooms, to hiking and camping with friends. That’s how the young Ludo fell in love with what he found in and around nearby vineyards, and his journey began.
“I’ve always liked the people and culture of vineyards and wineries,” he says. Though his family had no direct connection with winemaking, the process was close-at-hand. As he grew, this boy with a hungry intellect and love of nature was drawn to the sciences, specifically microbiology. However, a career confined to a lab was not for him.
“Winemaking was a natural path,” he says. It encompassed everything he loved, from close contact with nature and people, to the balance of tradition and innovation, to the application of science, art, and a touch of alchemy. “Winemaking opened doors to the artistic creativity I craved.”
An important stop on Ludo’s journey wasn’t a stop at all, but a three-year stretch of what he calls a “flying winemaker,” visiting and working harvests at wineries throughout the northern and southern hemispheres. In France, Greece, South Africa, and California, Ludo experienced winemaking in the Old and New Worlds, discovering techniques, viticulture practices, and climates along the way.
As you might guess, he found one place particularly attractive: Napa Valley.
“The region possessed all the ingredients for success,” he says. “People were eager, the climate was perfect, and there were beautiful vineyards everywhere. Plus, there was a thriving economy, and a huge demand for great wine. It was an ideal place for winemakers, and a truly magical time.”
By the mid-1990s, he returned to Napa Valley for good. In 2002, he came to Mumm Napa, where he has served as head winemaker ever since.
“The region as a whole continues to inspire,” he says. “No other area in the world has reached the level of international recognition and respect in so short a time as Napa has in 25 years. There’s an almost unlimited sense of creativity and desire here, like psychological oxygen people breathe. We are always creating.”
Ludo has no plans to retire from winemaking any time soon. Even when the day comes, he does not imagine ever completely leaving the world he has known since childhood—there’s always something to discover and apply.
“Every vintage is different,” he says. “As a winemaker, I must adapt and innovate according to what I know, and what Mother Nature provides. People’s tastes evolve over time. My goal is to stay in close contact with them, and deliver wines they want. It’s in my DNA. I warned my wife that she wasn’t just marrying a person, but a lifestyle.”
The journey may have begun in the vineyards of Champagne, but it continues here in Napa Valley. In some small way, a little bit of that history goes into every glass of Mumm Napa sparkling wine.