Our final visit during the 2014 harvest was to Chateau Mouton Rothschild. The heritage and reputation of the chateaux of the world’s greatest dynasty in wine needs no introduction. Chateau Mouton-Rothschild has led the way with many innovations in the wine industry, most notably during the long reign of Baron Philippe de Rothschild from 1922 – 1988 in terms of quality, production and promotion, especially in the alliance with world famous artists in the creation of the famous Mouton labels establishing the estate’s link with the art world.
This has been an extraordinary year, with the passing this summer of Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, the matriarch of this famous family of wine-makers and bankers. An actress, she joined the family business at the request of her father, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, in the 1970s and then assumed control on his death in 1988. Following in her father’s footsteps she continued to develop his projects at Mouton and the other estates owned by the family along with projects including that at Opus One in the Napa Valley. Speaking to members of her team you can see she is sadly missed.
There can never be a better time of year to visit a vineyard than harvest time, with the workers in the vines and the grapes, juices and aromas in the cellars. To see the detailed workings of a First Growth such as Mouton in full harvest action is an extraordinary privilege. During our tour we heard that estates increased their labour force to about 150 personnel. At Mouton it was 700 to ensure the quality of the grapes were protected to the optimum extent during harvest. We were there on their last day, the grapes could be seen in vats with a glass visibility seam running longitudinally through the depth of them. The juice being driven by gravity and weight of the ‘cake’ above through spouts at the base of the vats to be pumped back through. A glorious combination of visual and fragrant sensual overload – breathing in great gulps of Mouton-Rothschild 2014 – I didn’t want to leave the pristine, functional beauty of the cellar room.
I was gently coaxed upstairs to view the lasting legacy of Baroness Philippine, a wonderful exhibition of all of the Mouton-Rothschild bottle labels created by the artists who have contributed since Baron Philippe initiated this in 1945. The exhibition has travelled the world and now resides at Mouton and includes labels designed by Picasso, Warhol and our own Prince Charles. The contrast of this art exhibition adjacent to the state-of-the-art workings of one of the top five vineyards in the world is breath-taking. Mouton is a mind-blowing experience.
Finally, what was the early opinion on Mouton 2014? Herve Gouin, Commercial Director was very happy, “The colour, tannins and alcohol levels are very close to perfect. July was difficult and August very challenging but September was perfect and the quality is there. Volume is better than 2013, but it is not a big year for volume – we expect to be very happy at en primeur.”