Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac, Bordeaux wine, First Growth, producer profile, with wine tasting notes, wine ratings, a history of the property, information on wine making and terroir, along with wine tasting reviews. If you want to read about other important, Bordeaux Chateaux: Links to all Bordeaux Wine Producer Profiles
The start of the famous Rothschild family begins in 1744, with the birth of Amschel Meyer. Amschel Meyer began creating his fortune while working as a merchant at “zum Roten Schild,” which eventually became the family name of Rothschild. In 1798 his sons were sent to various cities to create their fortunes as well. Needless to say, his sons all prospered as did their children in turn. This eventually led to their desire to own a chateau in Bordeaux.
The official birth of what we know as Chateau Mouton Rothschild took place in 1853. At that time, Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild, an English member of the Rothschild family, purchased a property in Pauillac called Château Brane-Mouton. As was the custom of the day, the new owner renamed it using his name and Chateau Mouton Rothschild was born. In 1868, James Rothschild, another member of the family purchased Chateau Lafite.
It can be argued that the modern age of Chateau Mouton Rothschild, along with the modernization of the entire Bordeaux wine region began at the same time. In terms of time, it was quite recent. Especially when compared to the age of the appellation. In fact it took place less than one hundred years ago. Both events started when the young Baron Philippe Rothschild, who was only 20 years old at the time, gained control of the famous Bordeaux wine property Mouton Rothschild. The Baron completely changed how Bordeaux wine was produced and sold.
Starting in 1922, due to the Baron’s changes at Chateau Mouton Rothschild, many of the methods and techniques initiated by the Baron were seen as radical in the 1920’s. However, today, most are still practiced by all the top producers of Bordeaux wine today!
The Left Bank property was world famous for its wines. But some people, especially the young Baron Philippe Rothschild knew the estate could produce better Bordeaux wine. He was sure Chateau Mouton was as good as any of the First Growth wines from the Medoc. In the original 1855 Classification, Chateau Mouton Rothschild awarded Second Growth status. He made it his mission to earn the coveted First Growth status for Mouton Rothschild. While that will always be a feather in the cap of Mouton Rothschild, perhaps even more important is that Chateau Mouton Rothschild is the only First Growth still in the same families hands since the historic 1855 classification.
What the Baron accomplished at Mouton Rothschild in only two years is nothing short of amazing. The Baron was the first Bordeaux wine maker to insist on bottling all his wine at the estate. He started what was at the time considered to be an unusual idea. This allowed total control over the Bordeaux wine he sold from Mouton Rothschild. Prior to that point, chateaux either bottled their wine, or sold it in barrel to negociants, who bottled and sold the wine. The more common practice was to sell the wine in barrel to negociants. Keep in mind, at the time, bottling at the property was a revolutionary concept. To enhance the start of bottling at the chateau in customers minds, Baron Philippe Rothschild hired the Cubist artist Jean Carlu to create a special label for the 1924 Chateau Mouton Rothschild label. This was the precursor to now famous artist designed labels for the bottles which began in 1945. The new practice of bottling their own wine created a need for more storage at the property. In 1926, the Baron constructed the famous “Grand Chai” of Mouton Rothschild.
In 1933, The Baron purchased a neighboring vineyard, Château Mouton d’Armailhacq. The property was renamed Chateau d’Armailhac in 1989 by his wife, the Baroness Philippine. Part of the reason for the purchase was, the estate came with a Bordeaux negociant firm which eventually became known as “Baron Philippe de Rothschild S.A.”
At the same time the Baron Philippe Rothschild was adding to his holdings in Pauillac, he created another important, innovation for the Bordeaux industry. He was the first to create a branded wine that would be known all over the world that sold for a price every consumer could afford. The genesis behind what would become Mouton Cadet took place in the 1930’s, following 3 extremely, poor vintages. At the time Mouton Cadet was first produced, it was actually used as the name for the second wine of Chateau Mouton Rothschild. The wine was initially created to help increase the quality of the Grand vin. The Baron chose the name Mouton Cadet because it translates into the “Youngest brother of Mouton.” Because those 3 vintages did not produce much wine at the level expected from Chateau Mouton Rothschild, much of the wine was sold under the name of Mouton Cadet. That tradition caught on and by the mid 1950’s the wine had turned into the world’s most popular branded, inexpensive Bordeaux wine.
The now famous series of labels portrayed on the labels for Mouton Rothschild started in 1945. The debut label was perfect for the times and the wine. The image The Baron chose was a symbol celebrating the Liberation of France. With the famous “V” for Victory label, a tradition was born! From that point on, each label vintage was based on an original work of art created specifically for this purpose by famous artists : Miro, Chagall, Braque, Picasso, Warhol, Bacon, Balthus, Tàpies and a myriad of famous artists have contributed to this tradition.
Mouton Rothschild was always a First Growth Bordeaux wine property in the eyes of the Baron. However, it was considered a Second Growth when the Classification took place in 1855. After existing for over 100 years without a single change, nobody believed the Classification would ever change. That is nobody except the Baron. He became the only person to succeed in changing the 1855 classification: Château Mouton Rothschild became officially a “Premier Cru Classé” (First Classified Growth).
In 1973, the front label on every bottle of Chateau Mouton Rothschild boasted…
“Premier je suis, second je fus, Mouton ne change”.
First I am, second I was, I Mouton do not change.
In 1988, Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, the daughter of the Baron, who had been associated with her father’s work for some time, succeeded her father who passed away that year.
The 75 hectare Bordeaux vineyard of Chateau Mouton Rothschild has a terroir filled with gravel, rocks, sand, clay and limestone soils. The vineyard of Chateau Mouton Rothschild is planted to 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. Interestingly, over the years, due to replantings, the vineyard makeup and blends have varied more than usual over a 10 year period starting in 2004. For example, Petit Verdot was not used in the blend for Mouton Rothschild from 2004 until 2015. Cabernet Franc was not placed in the blend between 2006 and 2010. The Mouton Rothschild vineyard is old, with vines averaging 44 years of age. However, they have old vines. Some parcels have vines that were planted more than 100 years ago! The vineyards are planted to a vine density of 10,000 vines per hectare. The percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon remains high, as it’s perfect for the gravel terroir of Mouton Rothschild.
The vineyard of Mouton Rothschild is situated on the “Mouton plateau.” The terroir consists of deep gravel over limestone soils. There are points in the vineyard that rise 27 meters above sea level offering important, natural drainage. In the Medoc, Cabernet Sauvignon was not always the most widely planted grape variety. In fact, Chateau Mouton Rothschild was the first important chateau to begin planting a large percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in their vineyards. The plantings were started by Baron Hector de Branne and his son Jacques Maxime de Branne who owned the chateau in the 1800’s. For several years during the 1800’s, vintages of Brane Mouton were even reported to have been produced from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon!
At Mouton Rothschild, they have a unique, labor intensive method of vineyard management practices. For the vines and different parcels, the same people are responsible for the same parcels every year, under the supervision of a specific vine manager. After pruning, the vines are tied. In the spring the young shoots are trained between the wires to allow ample space for the tractors to work the soil without harming the vines. Green harvesting is practiced. In select years the crop may be thinned in July to help to eliminate unripe clusters which reduces yields and concentrates the grapes.
Picking is done entirely by hand. The grapes are collected in 12 kilo open baskets. The young vines are harvested first and go through the alcoholic fermentation separately. Prior to destemming, the grapes are again sorted by hand with a berry by berry selection.
The new cellars completed in 2013 were designed by the team of the noted Architect, Bernard Mazieres and theatrical designer Richard Peduzzi. The renovations were extensive and included an entirely new, state of the art, gravity fed, vinification cellar. One of the unique creations was the invention of windows on the large, oak, fermentation vats. These thick glass windows all wine the wine maker to peer into the vat from the top to the bottom. The famous museum as well as the art galleries have been entirely renovated as well. The new cellars, which are estimated to have cost close to 20 million Euros were completed in time for the 2013 harvest at Mouton Rothschild.
To produce the wine of Chateau Mouton Rothschild, the wine is vinified in 64 large, temperature controlled wood, 225 hectoliter vats. Malolactic fermentation takes place in tank. Chateau Mouton Rothschild is always aged in 100% new, French oak barrels for an average of 19 to 22 months. There is a second wine, Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild which made its debut in 1993. Le Petit Mouton takes its name from the official residence of the Baroness and her family, which is a small house located next to the chateau that is known as Petit Mouton. There is also a third wine, sold as Baron Nathaniel.
Mouton Rothschild also makes a dry, white Bordeaux wine from a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle, Aile d’Argent. Sold as a Bordeaux Blanc, the wine made its debut in 1991. Aile d’Argent is one of the few white Bordeaux does conducts malolactic fermentation. Although that is limited to an average of 20% of the wine.
Since the arrival of Philippe Dhalluin, the amount of cases being produced of the Grand Vin continues to decrease, while the quality of the wine being made increases. As an example, previously, it was not unheard of for the estate to release 25,000 cases to as much as 30,000 cases of Mouton Rothschild. Today, that is not what takes place. The percentage of the crop used for Mouton Rothschild is now closer to 40% on average, which means they produce an average of 20,000 cases of Chateau Mouton Rothschild or less per vintage. This is clearly seen in the increased quality of the wine being produced today, which continues to improve. In 2006, Mouton Rothschild is clearly the wine of the vintage.
The Baroness Philippine Rothschild passed away at 80 years of age, August 22. She is survived by her three children, Camille Sereys de Rothschild born in 1961, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild born in 1963 and Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild, born in 1971. In October, 2014, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, the eldest son of Baroness Philippine Rothschild and her first husband, Jacques Sereys, was named as the new president of Chateau Mouton Rothschild.
The best vintages for Chateau Mouton Rothschild are: 2014, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2006, 2005, 2003, 2000, 1996, 1995, 1986, 1982, 1961, 1959, 1955, 1953, 1949, 1948, 1945, 1929 and 1928.
Mouton Rothschild is the most flamboyant style of wine of all the First Growths. With Asian spices, opulent textures, an exotic personality and the ability to age and evolve for decades, Chateau Mouton Rothschild is not only one of the finest Bordeaux wines, but it is also one of the world’s great wines.
Aside from their three Classified estates in Bordeaux, the company also produces wines in the Napa Valley with Opus One, in Limoux with Domaine de Baron’arques and in Chile, where they Rothschild family formed a partnership with Concha y Toro in Chile to create Almaviva. When added to all their branded and negociant wines, like Mouton Cadet, in total, the company sells more than $350,000,000 worth of wine each year.