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Château Mouton Rothschild through the ages

See tasting notes on our top rated vintages back to 1982 and read a profile of this first growth estate.

Château Mouton Rothschild is the youngest of the Médoc first growths, having been promoted in 1973 after it was originally marked as a second growth in the Bordeaux 1855 classification.

Promotion in such a rigid system was quite a feat.  ‘It’s like coming out of a dream,’ owner Baron Philippe de Rothschild told the New York Times just afterwards. ‘When one has worked for something so very, very hard for so long, it’s hard to believe that the fight is over.’

Investment in winemaking and vineyards continued over the next decades under the stewardship of Baron Philippe and his only daughter, Baroness Philippine de Rothschild – who also continued the practice of commissioning a famous artist to design each Mouton vintage label.

The next generation is now in charge, alongside MD Philipe Dhalluin, who arrived at the Pauillac-based Château in 2004. And the legacy is in safe hands, judging by Jane Anson’s rating of Mouton Rothschild 2016 in the bottle.

Five things you may not know about Château Mouton Rothschild

Copy by Jane Anson

1. Mouton is the only one of the 1855 first growths to have remained in the ownership of the same family since the classification.

2. For much of the 19th century, Mouton is recorded as using only Cabernet Sauvignon in its wines. Former owner Baron Hector de Branne and his son, Jacques-Maxime de Branne, were largely responsible for popularising the planting of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Médoc.

3. The rivalry between Mouton and Lafite had already started before either branch of the Rothschilds had arrived, and was said to have been fanned by Emile ‘Monplaisir’ Goudal, the manager of Lafite in the mid-19th century. He regularly wrote letters to brokers and merchants complaining about the high prices they were paying for Mouton.

4. A concerted push for promotion to first growth is believed to have begun after the expulsion of Mouton Rothschild from the Club des Cinq [the ‘famous five’] in the 1950s. This was a club comprising Mouton, Lafite, Latour, Haut-Brion and Margaux that Baron Philippe de Rothschild created to popularise château bottling in the 1920s.

5. During World War II, Baron Philippe was detained and stripped of his French citizenship. He eventually managed to get to England, where he joined Charles de Gaulle as part of the Free French forces, and took part in the D-Day landings. But his wife, Élisabeth Pelletier de Chambure, was arrested by the Nazis and died in Ravensbruck concentration camp in 1945, shortly before the end of the fighting.


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The best Mouton Rothschild wines: Our top vintages

 

 


Mouton Rothschild through the centuries

As with most of the major properties in Bordeaux, Mouton started life as a seigneurie.

Among the many significant events in its history, Jean-Louis de Nogaret de la Valette, Duc d’Eperon, deserves a nod here. While fighting in the siege of La Rochelle in 1627, Nogaret was introduced to the Dutch hydraulic engineer Jan Leeghwater, and asked him to draw up plans for draining the marshes of the Médoc. This meant that he played a significant role in preparing the Médoc for planting vines, something that has benefitted all of us today.

We can skip through the Branne years, because he has already been mentioned for his role in popularising Cabernet Sauvignon. We then jump to Baron Nathaniel Rothschild, who bought Mouton in 1853 (followed by his uncle Baron James’ purchase of Lafite 15 years later).

Ever since the Rothschilds’ arrival, Mouton has grown steadily in stature and quality, with things really starting to happen from 1922, when Baron Philippe arrived on the scene.

Philippe was the first Rothschild to move full-time to Pauillac. He grouped some of his most trustworthy and long-standing vineyard and cellar workers into a technical council, sought their advice on the best ways to improve the vines, and began to invest in new equipment for the cellars.

Baron Philippe died in 1988 and his daughter Baroness Philippine took over the property. She was another larger-than-life figure who ran the properties with the same passion as her father had, until her death in August 2014, aged 80.

The new cellars, inaugurated in June 2013, build on the drama of the 100-metre-long original barrel cellars, constructed in 1924 by Parisian stage designer Charles Siclis. The centrepiece of the renovations is the new Paintings for the Labels exhibition, an addition to the original Museum of Wine in Art, founded in 1962 by Baron Philippe, and containing a priceless collection of artworks relating to wine and the vine.

For the first time, all the original artworks for the Mouton labels have been brought together for the new museum.

Location: Pauillac appellation.

Production: 90 hectares of vines. Grand vin: 16,000-18,000 cases. Petit Mouton: 5,000-6,000 cases. A small amount of white wine, Aile d’Argent, is also produced.

Terroir: The vineyards extend over three small hills, with the slopes and the deep gravel terroir providing excellent drainage. Planted to 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot at a density of 10,000 plants per hectare. The average age of the vines is 44 years.

Plantation and vineyard work: Certain plots of vines at the estate date back to 1900. As with Haut-Brion, an onsite nursery grows its own clones to ensure the quality and the variability of the vine stock. Satellite imagery is used in the vineyards to isolate different zones, and each grape is looked after according to its age, its variety, its soil, its microclimate, and the needs according to the soil in which it grows.

Vinification: The wine is primarily fermented in oak vats of varying sizes – designed to correspond to different parcels on the estate. There are 44 oak vats and 20 stainless steel vats. Wine is then aged in 100% new oak barrels for 19 to 22 months, depending on vintage. A large research centre and laboratory, built for the branded wines but used for extensive testing of corks and other items used for the premium wines, is located close to the estate.

Main markets: China, US, Japan, UK. Mouton sells 100% through négociants and is a major player in the Bordeaux en primeur system.

Current owners: Baron Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild and Camille Sereys de Rothschild.

Consultant: Eric Boissenot, with Philippe Dhalluin as technical director and MD at the estate.

Other châteaux owned and co-owned:

  • Château Clerc Milon (Pauillac)
  • Château d’Armailhac (Pauillac)
  • Opus One (Napa, joint venture)
  • Almaviva (Chile, joint venture)
  • Domaine de Baronarques (Limoux)

The business also includes branded wines, particularly Mouton Cadet and Pays d’Oc varietal wines, plus distribution of Château Coutet, AOC Barsac.

This profile has been updated on 1 February 2019. It was originally written by Jane Anson and published on Decanter China


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