Château Mouton Rothschild – Interwoven Legacy of Terroir, Tradition, and Excellence
Nestled in the heart of Bordeaux's infamous Pauillac appellation, Château Mouton Rothschild stands as a beacon of winemaking mastery. Renowned for producing some of the world's most prestigious wines, this historic estate has a legacy that spans centuries. Behind Moutons masterful wines stands a rich history, distinctive terroir, and the artistry of exceptional winemaking.
The Tale of a Legendary Name
The Rothschild family's connection with wealth and success began in 1744 with the birth of Amschel Meyer, who established his fortune at "zum Roten Schild” which then became the family name, Rothschild. Fast forward to 1798, and Amschel's sons set out to create their fortunes. Nathaniel de Rothschild set his sights on Chateau Brane Mouton, giving rise to the Mouton legacy.
Chateau Brane Mouton, previously owned by Joseph de Brane, merged the names, signifying a small hill ("Mouton"). Despite facing a dip in the 1840s, the Rothschild family acquired and revitalized the property in 1853. However, during the 1855 Classification, Mouton Rothschild was designated a second growth, with Lafite, Latour, Margaux, and Haut-Brion achieving Premier Cru Classé status.
Baron Philippe de Rothschild's Era
In 1922, Baron Philippe de Rothschild assumed control, bringing transformative changes. He implemented radical techniques, setting the stage for the evolution of Bordeaux winemaking, such as initiated château bottling in 1924, marking a departure from the norm and ensuring quality control. The creation of Mouton Cadet, an affordable branded wine, showcased the Baron's innovative approach. Post-World War II, Baron Philippe commissioned annual artist-designed labels and, in 1973, successfully campaigned for Mouton Rothschild's elevation to first growth status, a groundbreaking change to the 1855 order.
Baroness Philippine de Rothschild's Influence
In 1988, Baroness Philippine de Rothschild succeeded her father, making significant contributions. She introduced white wine production in 1991, launched Aile d'Argent, and oversaw the renovation of Mouton Rothschild's winery. Her dedication to quality and innovation solidified Mouton's standing as a premier Bordeaux estate.
Her three children, Camille, Philippe and Julien, became co-owners in 2014 and continue to represent their mother’s dedication and devotion to the château.
Aside from their three Classified estates in Bordeaux, the Rothschild family company also produces wines in the Napa Valley with Opus One, in Limoux with Domaine de Baronarques, and in Chile, where the family formed a partnership with Concha y Toro in Chile to create Almaviva.
Terroir and Vineyards
The vineyards of Château Mouton Rothschild cover approximately 90 hectares (222 acres) of prime Pauillac terroir. The soil, consisting of deep gravel mixed with clay, provides optimal drainage and imparts distinctive characteristics to the grapes. Some vines, planted over 130 years ago, contribute to the vineyard's exceptional style. The vineyards are predominantly planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, complemented by Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.
Intriguingly, Château Mouton Rothschild is situated adjacent to another renowned estate, Château Lafite Rothschild, both sharing the illustrious Pauillac terroir.
The Art of Winemaking
Château Mouton Rothschild produces up to 350,000 bottles of wine each vintage, including the second wine Le Petit Mouton. The Estate is celebrated not only for its exceptional terroir but also for the meticulous winemaking techniques employed. The precise blend of grape varieties, predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, is carefully selected to create wines that are robust, complex, and age-worthy. The winemaking process involves fermentation in oak vats, followed by aging in new French oak barrels for an extended period, often reaching up to two years.
The Label Art - A Unique Tradition
One of the most distinctive features of Château Mouton Rothschild is its tradition of commissioning renowned artists to create unique label designs for each vintage. This tradition began in 1945 with a label designed by Philippe Jullian and has continued with contributions from artists such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, and Marc Chagall. The label art serves as a visual representation of the essence of each vintage, adding an extra layer of creativity and cultural significance to the Château's wines.
Chateau Mouton Rothschild was one of the first 1855 Classified chateau to begin marketing in China and they used their label art to further their connection to the country of China. For the 2008 vintage, Chateau Mouton Rothschild chose Xu Le, the Chinese-born artist to design their label creating cultural significance.
The wines produced by Château Mouton Rothschild are considered among the finest in the world. The grand vin, Château Mouton Rothschild, is a flagship Bordeaux blend known for its depth, complexity, and the ability to evolve gracefully over decades.
100 Points “1945 was the first of the artist’s label series (except for the one-off in 1924), commissioned by Baron Philippe de Rothschild and created by Philippe Jullian, featuring the distinctive “V” on the label to represent the World War II victory of the allies. This was a very small vintage, largely due to a devastating spring frost, which clearly did not affect quality, but meant yields were down by around 50% this year. This, combined with the fact that the vineyard was not quite the size it is today, meant that this would have been made almost exclusively from fruit from the plateau. It also meant only around 6,500 cases were made. Interestingly, Philippe Dhalluin shared with me that he recently learned this wine was made using a curious “sandwich” vinification method, whereby it was fermented using varying layers of stems and skins. Therefore, in this vintage there is an aromatic and textural component coming from the stems, which, of course, is absent in modern Mouton. However, this recently gleaned knowledge has inspired some vinification experiments with stems, Dhalluin told me with a gleam in his eyes. Medium to deep brick in color, the nose of the 1945 Mouton Rothschild is ATOMIC. It explodes from the glass with the most vibrant, spritely black cherry compote, kirsch and raspberry pie notes you can possibly imagine. This is backed up with beautifully fragrant rose oil, dried lavender, fallen leaves and wild mushroom scents, followed by waves of eucalyptus, cigar box, woodsmoke, incense and dark chocolate coming through as it transforms in the glass over the course of 30-45 minutes. The full-bodied palate is rich, decadent and very densely layered, strutting exquisitely ripe, fine-grained, silt-like tannins. The overall character is paradoxical: at once profoundly mature and yet so jaw-droppingly youthful. If this finish does not bring a tear to your eyes, nothing will.” Lisa Perrotti-Brown for Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate October 2019
The 1945 Awarded 100 Points by Robert M. Parker, Jr. “A consistent 100-point wine (only because my point scale stops at that number), the 1945 Mouton-Rothschild is truly one of the immortal wines of the century. This wine is easily identifiable because of its remarkably exotic, over-ripe, sweet nose of black fruits, coffee, tobacco, mocha, and Asian spices. It is an extraordinarily dense, opulent, and rich wine, with layers of creamy fruit, behaveing more like a 1947 Pomerol than a structured, powerful, and tannic 1945. The wine finishes with a 60+ second display of ripe fruit, extract, and sweet tannin. This remarkably youthful wine (only light amber at the edge) is mindboggling! Will it last another 50 years?” Robert Parker December 1997
The estate also produces a second wine, Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild, offering a more accessible expression of the estate's winemaking prowess.
Timeless Elegance, Unwavering Passion
Château Mouton Rothschild stands for the enduring commitment of the Rothschild family to the art of winemaking. With a history that intertwines with the evolution of Bordeaux's winemaking traditions, this iconic estate continues to shape the narrative of excellence and innovation in the world of fine wines. Each bottle of Château Mouton Rothschild encapsulates not just the flavors of the vineyard but also the spirit of a family dedicated to crafting wines that transcend time and captivate the senses.