Chateau Mouton Rothschild managing director Philippe Dhalluin has visited the UK to give tasters a preview of its new vintage ahead of en primeur week for the first time.
Philippe Dhalluin (centre) with Richard Bampfield MW (left) and John Salvi MW (right) at the Institute of Masters of Wine tasting in London
Holding court in a room full of Masters of Wine, Dhalluin used a vertical tasting of Mouton Rothschild‘s grand vin over the past decade to also present the assemblage of what is likely to comprise ‘95% or 96%’ of the final blend for the first growth estate’s flagship wine from the 2013 vintage.
Dhalluin told decanter.com that he saw the London tasting as an opportunity to do something different. But, he said he is also aware that ‘a lot of bad things have been said about the 2013 vintage’, prior to anybody tasting it.
‘It’s important to have a real idea of what this vintage can be,’ he told decanter.com at the tasting, which was organised by the Institute of Masters of Wine.
Some merchants, critics and chateau owners have already labelled 2013 in general as the worst Bordeaux vintage for more than 20 years. This year’s en primeur campaign will go ahead, but observers say it is likely to be a relatively small-scale affair.
Dhalluin told the assembled MWs that he was ‘surprised’ by the quality of 2013 so far, particularly because humid conditions that made Bordeaux ‘feel more like Bangkok’ forced the estate to harvest ahead of plan, in order to avoid rot.
However, Mouton Rothschild and other top chateaux say they have been ruthlessly selective and that volumes will be down as a result.
‘We got the biggest number of pickers possible, so we could catch all of the grapes at the right moment,’ Dhalluin said.
On one day, Mouton brought in 695 pickers to harvest and sort grapes, around 100 more than normal. It also drafted in 60 staff based at the estate to help out on weekends.
Wine consultant Stephane Derenoncourt has called 2013 a ‘vintage of the rich’, and Dhalluin agreed that much will depend on the facilities and workforce at an estate’s disposal, alongside winemaking skill and judgement.
Dhalluin estimated that around 40% of Mouton’s 2013 production is likely to go into its grand vin, although he has not done a final calculation.
That proportion is normally closer to 50%. Dhalluin said production will be the lowest for at least two decades, and probably at levels more commonly seen in the 1960s.
He reiterated his support for en primeur, amid renewed criticism of the system in recent weeks. ‘En primeur is part of the story of Bordeaux,’ he said.
At the tasting, Dhalluin gave a tutored tasting of every Mouton Rothschild vintage since 2003, apart from 2012.
(Additional reporting by Georgina Hindle)
Written by Chris Mercer