Chateau Mouton Rothschild – One of Five

It is without doubt the most interesting and the most controversial of all the châteaux in Bordeaux; and its former owner, the late Baron Philippe de Rothschild, would have it no other way. There have been four generations of Rothschilds since the Baron's great grandfather, Nathaniel, bought the château in 1853; but the family did not take much interest in Mouton until young Baron Philippe came to live on the property in 1923 - the first Rothschild to be a live-in proprietor. It was to signal a new era for Mouton and a new era for Bordeaux, for not only did the Baron Philippe begin to do much to attract the world's attention to the merits of his own wine, he also generated a great deal of interest in the entire Bordeaux region. After fifty years of hard work, Baron Philippe scored a great personal triumph in 1973. In that year Mouton was reclassified from a second to a first cru in the elite 1855 Grand Cru Classification, a long-overdue recognition and the first time a wine had ever been upgraded in this controversial and ossified classification.

In 1945 Mouton began the controversial practice of adorning each new vintage with the work of a famous artist (such publicity gimmicks were considered "bad form" among the staid, aristocratic society of Bordeaux.) However, the "label art" today has become something famous in itself (the labels themselves are now collector's items and one must get his original by purchasing a bottle), and the original objections raised have long been forgotten. Some of the great artists of the 20th century have done work for the labels - Braque, Dali, Chagall, Kandinsky, and Picasso. Andy Warhol did the 1975, and John Huston, the movie director, painted the label for the legendary 1982. In addition to presiding over one of the world's great wine estates for some sixty years, Baron Philippe had also been a great patron of the arts. The château itself is a major tourist attraction in Bordeaux and houses one of the world's great wine museums. The chai, in which new vintages of Mouton age in shiny barrels, is a breathtaking sight for the winelover. The great Baron died at his home in Paris in January of 1988, and his funeral was one of the largest ever witnessed in the Médoc - nearly 1500 people attended a grand ceremony at the Château. Under French law, the dead may not be buried at their estates, but the Rothschild family was granted an exception by the authorities. The Baron's daughter, the Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, assumed control and management of the Château after her fathers death.

Over the course of the past few years, the Baroness has been actively involved at Mouton, and there was never a doubt that she would continue the legacy established by her father. Certainly the circumstances could not be more favorable, for Mouton-Rothschild has been on a roll in the 1980's - the château has produced some of the greatest wines in its history and arguably the greatest wines in Bordeaux.

by Andrew Lampasone

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