The wines of a certain Mouton!

Ok let me get back to one of most vivid passions, and that is wines. If you have read my wines you know my story, if not, you should search wines in my blog to spare the repetition.  However, wines is in me since that day way back that my maternal grandmother allow me to taste it at the age of 8!  We had a long family tradition and wine was sacred. For the anecdote, that was a Marques de Riscal Rioja Spanish red wine!

It has been many years since, and my tastes have turn French for the most part. And of course, the specific area of the Médoc commonly call Bordeaux, and for me more specific again Pauillac, the essence of winemaking. And I am very close to an emblematic property that I am on the wine list and direct purchaser and visited many times the properties. I like to tell you a bit on the history of Mouton Rothschild!

Château Mouton Rothschild is a renowned wine estate in the Médoc, located in the town of Pauillac. It produces one of the most prestigious Bordeaux wines, in the Pauillac appellation. Château Mouton Rothschild is a First Grand Cru according to the official classification of Bordeaux wines. Owned by the English branch of the Rothschild family since 1853.

A bit of history I like

In 1853, Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild bought the Château Brane Mouton at Pauillac at auction, and renamed it Château Mouton Rothschild, which was classified in 1855 as the second grand cru. After the death of Nathaniel de Rothschild in 1870, the Château remained in the family, without much development until 1922 when Baron Philippe de Rothschild (great-grandson of Baron Nathaniel) took control of the estate. He was fully involved in it in 1923, and was the architect of the Château’s resurrection. In 1924, he imposed bottling at the château, which had previously been delivered to the merchants in barrels ;a first in Bordeaux.

The decree of April 7, 1942 of the French State decides on the expropriation of the domain “for reasons of public utility” so that the properties escape the Nazis lusts. Provisional administrators turned it into agricultural schools until the Rothschild barons repossessed it in late 1945.

In 1973, under the seven-year term of President Georges Pompidou who had worked at the Rothschild bank from 1954 to 1958, the only revision ever carried out of the classification of 1855 consecrated Mouton Rothschild to the rank of first grand cru. On this occasion the motto became: “First I am, second I was, Mouton does not change”.

In 1988, after the disappearance of Baron Philippe de Rothschild, it was her daughter, Baroness Philippine de Rothschild who inherited this treasure that she set out to enlarge and modernize. Since 2014, the three children of Philippine de Rothschild, Camille Sereys de Rothschild, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild4 and Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild are co-owners of the Château. Camille Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild work closely with Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, Chairman of the Supervisory Board.

Château Mouton Rothschild covers 91 hectares of vines, at the heart of the Pauillac appellation of origin. The grape varieties are typical of the Médoc: Cabernet Sauvignon (78%), Cabernet Franc (3%), Merlot (18%) and Petit Verdot (1%). Mouton Rothschild practices unusual vinification by leaving the wine in tanks after the end of fermentation, giving extra body, requiring a longer maturation in bottle to reach full maturity.

In 1924, on the occasion of the first bottling at the Château Mouton Rothschild, a specific label was produced by the poster designer Jean Carlu. It is also a work of the artist who decorates since 1994 the label of the Mouton Cadet brand. In 1945, Baron Philippe de Rothschild decided to celebrate victory by illustrating the label of Mouton Rothschild with the V for victory. This one is designed by Philippe Jullian. Since then, each year the label of the vintage is illustrated by a contemporary artist. The most important in my opinion are: 1973: the label honors the memory of Picasso who died on April 8 of that same year. 1977: vintage dedicated to the visit of the Queen Mother of England. 1987: vintage dedicated by Philippine de Rothschild to her father Baron Philippe, who died on January 20, 1988. 1993: scandal around the work of Balthus, who represents a naked adolescent girl. A limited series, without the drawing, is published for the United States! . 2000: no label for the millennium bottle, it is screen printed. The motif represents the iconic ram of the symbol of the house. And 2003: celebrates the 150 anniversary of the acquisition of Château Mouton Rothschild. The label represents a photo of Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild, on the background of the act of purchase.

The Rothschild family, owner of Château Mouton Rothschild, is a member of the Primum Familiæ Vini (Latin). Premier Familles du Vin (PFV) (French) is an association of prestigious winegrowers, owners of cellars and historic estates. Its members around the world are limited to twelve families or wineries. In 2018, the association has twelve members (6 French, 2 Italian, 2 Spanish, one German and one Portuguese). Official webpage in English:

A bit on the personal history of the founder Baron Philippe de Rothschild and Mouton Rothschild genie.

Born in Paris; Georges Philippe de Rothschild is the youngest of the sons of Henri James de Rothschild who is a famous playwright under the pseudonyms of André Pascal and Mathilde Sophie Henriette von Weissweiller. When the Great War or WWI broke out, Philippe, then aged 12, was sent for safety reasons to the family vineyard of Pauillac in the Médoc. There, he developed his love of the countryside and the vineyard, the latter being part of family activities since 1853 but for which neither his father nor his grandfather showed any interest.

In 1928, he participated for the first time in the real race linking Paris to Nice, the Critérium Paris-Nice, after which he bought a new Bugatti and participated in the first Grand Prix Bugatti du Mans, where he finished second behind André Dubonnet. In 1929, he participated in many competitions including the first Monaco Grand Prix in which he finished fourth behind the winner, William Grover-Williams. Three weeks later, he obtained his first victory at the Grand Prix de Bourgogne in Dijon. He is still second in the German Grand Prix behind his factory teammate, Louis Chiron. It is for the sake of discretion that Philippe thus ends his racing career, only participating one last time in 1930 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. A real dude!

He also devoted himself to the production in 1932 of the first French speaking film of French cinema having obtained international recognition, Lac aux dames (adapted from a short story by Vicki Baum and directed by Marc Allégret, script by Colette and whose stars are Jean -Pierre Aumont and Simone Simon). He hired his mistress the actress Illa Meery there. In 1935, he married Élisabeth Pelletier de Chambure. They have two children: Philippine Mathilde Camille and Charles Henri (died stillborn in 1937). He later divorced his wife Elisabeth but remain in good relations.

In 1932, he noticed that the grape did not meet the quality standards he had set for himself and decided not to market it under the name of the château. This draconian selection of local ingredients led him to market in 1932 what was rejected quality wise in the Médoc , under the name “Mouton Cadet”. The product is so successful that it has to buy grapes throughout the vineyards of the Bordeaux region in order to meet demand. In 1933 Philippe increased the Mouton Rothschild estate by acquiring the Château d’Armailhacq estate. Towards the end of the 1930s, the Mouton Rothschilds were considered among the best wines in the world. However, the Mouton vineyard is still classified in the “second crus” by the official classification of Bordeaux wines of 1855, probably due to the disinterest of the previous owner, the banker Isaac Thuret.

Although having been called to serve in the French Air Force, the rapid defeat of France led to the arrest of Philippe in Algeria by the Vichy government and the seizure of his vineyard. His French citizenship was revoked on September 6, 1940 because of what the New York Times described as “having left France without official permission or valid reason”. Released April 20, 1941; Philippe de Rothschild joined England and joined the Free French Forces of General de Gaulle, where he received the Croix de Guerre (War Cross). Elisabeth de Rothschild, Philippe’s ex-wife never thought she could be worried, being from an old French family. Upon his return to France after the Liberation, Philippe de Rothschild learns that if his daughter is well and unharmed, however, the Gestapo deported his ex-wife in 1941 to Ravensbrück where she had been assassinated on March 23, 1945. Devastated by the news, Rothschild must also be concerned with his vineyard. The fleeing Nazi army has caused serious damage to Chateau Mouton Rothschild and the property is in need of major repairs. Together with dedicated employees, he put all his energy into restoring the vineyard and in the early 1950s he was again able to produce excellent wines.

In 1952, Rothschild and Bonheur wrote the screenplay for the film La Demoiselle et son revenant. Philippe de Rothschild was an accomplished poet, and in 1952 his poem Vendange inspired Darius Milhaud with a ballet in three acts for the Paris Opera Garnier. He also translates poems and plays by Christopher Fry.

In 1954, Rothschild married his mistress, Pauline Fairfax Potter an American, born in Paris, who was a fashion designer at Hattie Carnegie. After their marriage, she used her talents as an aesthete to restore the old warehouse of the property and make it a superb home, which made her famous in the world of fashion and interior design. In 1962, in Mouton, the Rothschilds created a “Museum of Wine in Art” (wonderful right on the property of Mouton Rothschild!) where a priceless collection of works of art covering three millennia of wine history was exhibited, including works by Pablo Picasso and rare glassware . In 1970, Rothschild bought Château Clerc Milon, a fifth vintage located next to his property. The succession is ensured by his daughter, Philippine de Rothschild, who in turn becomes, until her death in 2014, an emblematic figure of the Bordeaux vineyard

In 1973, Jacques Chirac, then Minister of Agriculture signed the decree granting Château Mouton Rothschild classification as Premier Grand Cru! Worth it great human effort by a great family of wines and France.

The Baron domaine webpage with its properties all over the world is here in English: Baron Philippe de Rothschild estates

The Mouton Rothschile webpage on its wines in English: Official Chateau Mouton Rothschild

And for ordering as I do when not visiting La Baronnie is the online boutique of the Domaine, webpage in French here: La Baronnie boutique wines of Mouton Rothschild domaines

A bit info on the house wines of the Mouton Rothschild domaine as not all are expensive, there is a huge gamme of products and for everyday drinking we go down the ladder. Here are some explanation on them.

La Bélière is the flagship of their Bordeaux appellation wines. Its ambition is to be the best wine in its category for each vintage. Developed with the same care of requirement as we do for our famous names, it meets to their criteria of perfection and to a single watchword: “Only be satisfied with the best …”

This Collection, created by Baron Philippe de Rothschild for the Friends of La Baronnie (like me), offers a complete introduction to the biggest Bordeaux appellations: in red (Pauillac, Médoc, Saint-Émilion, Graves Rouge…) in dry white (Graves Blanc), in sweet white (Sauternes) and rosé. Race and elegant, Mise de la Baronnie is a virtuoso blend of the 3 grape varieties that traditionally make up the largest Châteaux. Merlot (83%) brings its flexibility, roundness and elegance. Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) gives it its richness, its velvety character and its flavors of blackcurrant. Cabernet Franc (7%) gives it structure and a distinguished character.

Each grape variety used in the assembly of the Agneau Rouge (red lamb; one of the heraldic symbols of the family) comes from a particular terroir. Merlots (50%) planted on clay-limestone soils give a nice concentration of fruit and roundness to the wine, Cabernet Sauvignon (40%) and Cabernet Franc (10%), planted on sandy-gravel soil. fine with very soft tannins. The color is intense purple with light vermilion reflections. The first nose reveals a nice cocktail of ripe red fruit like strawberry, cherry and black fruit like blueberry, blackcurrant. With airing, the nose thickens with ever more richness in fruit and a caressing spicy touch. The attack on the palate is frank and balanced and recalls the fruits expressing on the nose. The tannins take place and densify with delicacy until creating a perfect balance in the wine. My favorite of the line.

And there you go a beautiful property deep in history and traditions, one of the symbols of my belle France; the Mouton Rothschild. Hope you enjoy the post and try the wines, En Vino Veritas!!!

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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