Château Mouton Rothschild MD Philippe Dhalluin achieved celebrity status on Chinese social media after hosting a masterclass of eight vintages, including Bordeaux 2005, 2009 and 2010, at the Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter.
Decanter’s publishing director, Sarah Kemp, introduced Dhalluin to a packed masterclass room as ‘one of the most famous men in Bordeaux‘.
Within two hours, Dhalluin also had a strong claim to fame on both Weibo and Wechat, China’s top social media networks, as enraptured wine lovers queued up for a selfie with Mouton’s personable managing director at a giant photo booth outside the class.
Excitement had been building throughout the tasting as Dhalluin walked guests through a vertical of consecutive vintages of Mouton Rothschild’s grand vin from 2005 to 2011 inclusive.
He also treated ticketholders to a Mouton 1996, which came close to stealing the limelight from that holy trinity of Bordeaux vintages in the early 21st Century: 2005, 2009 and 2010.
So much has been said on those three vintages, but the opportunity to taste them together – and from a first growth chateau – is very rare for most wine lovers, whether in Shanghai or London or New York.
‘2010 was extraordinary, and so was 2009,’ Dhalluin said. ‘The kind of vintage that you expect to have maybe once in your life as a winemaker.’
He talked about the importance of good weather at the crucial points in the vineyard growing season. ‘2010 was exceptional not because it was hot, but because it was very sunny. You had very slow grape maturity. In 2009, we just had all of the right things at the right time; enough sun, enough rain, but not too much. All the stars were aligned, and that’s why it is for me the perfect vintage.’
Yet, both remain relatively immature by Bordeaux standards, of course, and Dhalluin said his favourite wine for drinking was presently 2005, ‘even if it is still young’.
It was also Dhalluin’s second year at the estate and he told guests how 2005 helped him to learn a lot about his recently adopted Pauillac vineyards. ‘You have density, spice and chocolate, but you also have this smoky aroma and it comes from the grapes. It is a signature of Mouton.’
Mouton Rothschild 1996
The 1996 was perhaps a surprise package, described as ‘stunning’ by Parag Tripathi, who made the journey from Delhi just to attend the Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter.
‘Globally, it is not considered an exceptional year for Bordeaux, because the Right Bank had a lot of storms. But for Medoc, it was exceptional,’ said Dhalluin of the 1996. ‘This wine is very Pauillac – austere, strong and will age easily.’
Mouton 1996 also contains 10% Cabernet Franc, alongside 77% Cabernet Sauvignon and 13% Merlot. That is high by more modern standards at an estate that stopped using Cabernet Franc altogether from 2005 to 2010 inclusive. It made a return in 2011, but only at 3%. ‘It gives the wine a little salty attack,’ Dhalluin said. ‘We felt it was important to have a little bit in the blend.’
He added that 2011, alongside a number of other so-called lesser vintages, still offered the chance to discover new aspects of the wines. In 2008, for example, the wine has a hint of mint, ‘which is what happens when Cabernet Sauvignon is at the limit of ripeness’, Dhalluin said.
He finished the session by inviting the audience to ‘come and visit us’ in the Medoc. Judging by the reaction to his presence in Shanghai, Mouton could be a busy place in the months ahead.