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WINES BY REGION

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Chateau Mouton Rothschild

mouton-rothschild.jpgThere are few more famous names in the world of fine wine than that of Mouton Rothschild.  A first-growth, having the honour of being the only property to be upgraded in the Classification since its inception in 1855 (by Presidential decree in 1973, after half a century of lobbying by proprietor Baron Philippe de Rothschild).  Add to that it’s renowned label, featuring a different artwork each year (1924 vintage and then from 1945 onwards) by such famous artists as Picasso, Chagall, Warhol Balthus and even Prince Charles.  And then there’s the wine itself, one of the most exotic, opulent and immediately appealing of any Bordeaux, usually with a richness and complexity to please any drinker.

The Château itself is physically underwhelming, but contained within is a majestic art collection, including many sculptures (such as the surprisingly tiny figurines that adorn ‘sister’ labels d’Armailhac and Clerc-Milon).  As such, it is one of the region’s top tourist attractions.

Mouton has, rightly, been considered frustratingly inconsistent.  It’s greatest vintages, such as 1982, 1959, 1953, 1947 and 1929 are amongst the pantheon of greatest wines produced in Bordeaux, yet far, far too many other vintages are of inferior quality, both compared to the other first-growths, but also in terms of the vintages in general (not to mention their price, but that’s barely the fault of the Château).  However since the 1994 vintage I have noticed an improved degree of consistency here, and whilst Mouton’s grand vin is not necessarily at the pinnacle each and every vintage, it is certainly a lot closer than in years gone by, and now fully-warrants its classification as first-growth. 

Vineyards:

mouton.jpgLocated on the northern side of Pauillac, not far from Lafite, on a small hill beside Pontet-Canet, Mouton has some 82 hectares of vineyard planted to 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, with an average vine age of nearly 50 years.  The technical director believes that the best Cabernet Sauvignon comes from parcels at the top of the hill.

Winemaking:

It takes up to 400 pickers to harvest the fruit in any given year at Mouton.  All vinification and fermentation is undertaken in 225hl vats, with the wine in each vat blended with fruit of similar vine-age and quality.  Fermentation takes a week at 30°, followed by two to three weeks maceration.  Free-run and press wine undergo malolactic fermentation separately, with final selection made prior to the wine being placed in barrel, where it ages for approximately 18 months.

Each barrel is topped three times per week, and are egg-white fined (five whites per barrel) for 45 days in December or January prior to bottling.  Château-bottling commenced here in 1924 (the first property in Bordeaux to utilise this), which was celebrated with the new label.

Mouton keeps an extensive museum of wine, with around 30,000 bottles in their private museum and a further 60,000 bottles of Bordeaux (from many properties) in the cellar.  Each vintage 24 bottles, six magnums and two jeroboams of Mouton Rothschild are retained and never drunk from every vintage.  The oldest Mouton in the cellar is 1859, whilst the oldest other property is Haut-Brion 1891.