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Mouton-Rothschild: The Importance
Mouton-Rothschild, the neighbour of Lafite-Rothschild, is a First Growth Bordeaux. This fact in itself makes this Pauillac one of the most important wines on the planet, but the chateau’s history and an often cited “flamboyance” are what set it apart.
There have only ever been three changes made to the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. Two were trivial, seeing Cantemerle being incorporated after having been originally omitted and Dubignon being removed when it became part of Malescot St. Exupéry. The only truly important change was Mouton-Rothschild being elevated from second growth to first growth in 1973, making it the only wine to have ever been upgraded. This occurred because its quality and price regularly surpassed those above it.
In the words of Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin: “Mouton is unashamedly gregarious, flamboyant and melodramatic… Mouton is a splash of colour in what can be a monochromatic region.” He also says that “a great Mouton-Rothschild, of which there are many, is a sensational wine that can eclipse its contemporaries.”
Mouton-Rothschild’s Grand Vin has received perfect scores from Robert Parker for four separate vintages and from Jancis Robinson for five.
Mouton-Rothschild: The Insight
Mouton-Rothschild’s vineyards are roughly 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the remainder being made up roughly equally of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, plus a tiny proportion of Petit Verdot. Each parcel has the same team responsible for it year in, year out. This tight viticulture practice and attention to detail keep the estate at the top of its game.
The legendary 1945, 1959, 1961, 1982 and 1986 vintages are often used to benchmark other wines. And the château also produces a popular white wine called Aile d’Argent and a second wine called Le Petit Mouton, the latter being first introduced in 1993 and has played a major part in the improved quality, since the 1990s, of the Grand Vin itself. The estate also has joint ventures with Robert Mondavi in California, Opus One, and Concha y Toro in Chile, Almaviva.
In 1945 Mouton-Rothschild introduced constantly changing labels for each vintage, making it not only a thing of beauty on the outside as well as the inside, but it also gives added appeal for collectors as they have featured great artists such as Miro, Picasso, Warhol, Bacon and many more.
The 1970 vintage came second in the 1976 Judgement of Paris as the highest ranked French wine in the competition.
Mouton-Rothschild: The Background
This Pauillac property was originally called Brane-Mouton, with the “Mouton” being a reference to the small hill on which it sits; the “Mouton Plateau” consisting of deep gravel over limestone.
A temporary decline in the 1840s saw it narrowly miss out classification as a First Growth in 1855. However, it was bought by the Rothschild family, who renamed it, and the restoration of its reputation began. The major driving force behind the revolution was Baron Philippe de Rothschild, who made Mouton-Rothschild the first estate to bottle all its own production in 1924. Mouton-Rothschild was confiscated during World War II, Baron Philippe escaped to London, but unfortunately his wife died in a concentration camp. To celebrate the end of the war and the liberation of France, Baron Philippe de Rothschild introduced changing labels for each vintage starting in 1945, which continue to add to the collectable nature of these wines today. His lobbying, campaigning and improvements in quality saw the château upgraded to First Growth status in 1973, the only Bordeaux to ever achieve this. In response Baron Philippe famously said: "Premiere je suis, second je fus, Mouton ne change", translating as: "First I am, second I was, Mouton does not change".
Still owned by the Rothschild family, the estate produces around 20,000 cases per year of what is without question one of the world’s most sought-after wines.
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