A Visit to Mouton Rothschild

It’s time for En Primeur, so it only seems right that we spotlight a few of our favorite Bordeaux producers, starting with Château Mouton Rothschild.  One of Bordeaux’s first-growth jewels, this estate is located in the village of Pauillac, 30 miles northwest of Bordeaux Centre, with 203 acres of vineyards on the slopes of the Gironde in the Medoc.

The Family

The Rothschild family has a rich history in finance, with family members working in main European financial centers all over the continent since the mid-18th century: Frankfurt, Vienna, London, Naples, and Paris.  One of two French branches of the Rothschild family was founded by Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild, a London-born aristocrat who moved to Paris with the intent of working with his uncle.  In 1853 – wanting to produce wine to serve to his friends – the Baron bought Château Brane-Mouton at auction, which he renamed to Château Mouton Rothschild.  Nearly 70 years later, in 1922, the Baron Philippe de Rothschild (great-grandson of Baron Nathaniel) took over the estate.  His daughter, Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, inherited the estate upon Baron Philippe’s death in 1988, and took to becoming a global ambassador for the estate and for Bordeaux as a whole.  The Baroness passed away in 2014, and the estate is now run by her eldest son, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild.

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Pauillac and the Estate

Getting to the Medoc from Bordeaux Centre takes approximately one very scenic hour – lots of lush scenery interspersed between  little towns that you must cut through.  You will also pass a few famous names on the way – Margaux, Pichon-Longueville, Leoville-Poyferre, Beychevelle (if you take D2), the road map looking more like a well-curated wine menu at a Michelin-starred restaurant!  As you go through the vineyards of Pauillac, you may recognize some iconic landmarks – like the tower from Château Latour pictured above.  In a stark contrast to Napa Valley’s Highway 29 or Silverado Trail, the roads are quiet and the estates are more spread out – no buses full of tipsy bachelorettes in sundresses here, as many of the tastings are by appointment only and much more low-key.

Château Mouton Rothschild charges 45€ per person for the tour and to taste wine.  (This tour takes approximately two hours, maybe even a little longer, so plan any other appointments accordingly!)  It begins with an informative film on the family and the estate, and from there, you will tour the grounds – from the vineyards, to the vinification area, to the library and museum.

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The New Vat Room

In 2012, Mouton-Rothschild did an overhaul of their gravity-fed vat room, hiring a set designer and architect to design every inch – from the walkways to the halls – making the entire aesthetic pretty dramatic, and almost theatrical.  When we arrived, they had just cleaned all the equipment in preparation for harvest.  We went down to the vinification vats – 64 in total, (44 oak and 20 stainless), an artistic display of wood, concrete, and steel.  Much of the harvested grapes at Mouton go through an optical sorting machine, but Philippe Dhalluin, managing director of the estate, also likes manual sorting because it “allows more integrity in the grapes” – an indication of the level of detail paid by the winemaker.  They strive for precision at Mouton, even going so far as to vinify certain parcels separately and combining them later for a more careful and thoughtful blend.

 

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 The Great Barrel Hall

The Grand Chai, or Great Barrel Hall, is a result of the Baron Philippe’s decision to bottle wines at the château – the first estate to do such a thing.  Simply, the château needed more space to store the wine, so in 1926, this 100-metre-long room was built, designed by architect Charles Siclis.  It’s quite an impressive room that feels sort of like an old church when you’re standing at the back, gazing over the rows of barrels.  At the front of the room, the family’s crest.

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Gilded silver ram cup, c1590

The Museum of Wine in Art

In 1962, the Minister of Cultural Affairs inaugurated the Museum of Wine in Art, the estate’s private collection of precious wine-related objects.  This wing of the estate is quite interesting – artifacts from all over the world, and of all ages, are displayed in a carefully curated exhibit.  From tapestries to goblets, ivory carvings, glassware – if you love art and artifacts, you could stay in this section for a very long time.  I felt like this was one of the best parts of the tour, and especially loved this silver ram cup, above.  Another section of the museum displays the labels that Mouton commissioned over the years – great artists like Chagall, Jeff Koons, Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Keith Haring have designs that have appeared on various vintages of Château Mouton Rothschild since 1945.  

chateau-mouton-rothschild-1982

The Wine

At the end of the tour, you will get to sample the vintage that is not yet bottled (barrel samples), or most recent release.   Sadly, you are not able to taste a selection of different vintages, but it is still a wonderful end to a tour that is rich in historical insight and beautiful displays.  Definitely a must visit for fans of Bordeaux wines and anyone who is interested in wine-related art!  Tours are available in several languages as well.

To visit:

Château Mouton Rothschild
33250 Pauillac
tel. +33 (0)5 56 73 21 29

By appointment only.

Some great Château Mouton Rothschild vintages available through Vinfolio:

1986 Mouton-Rothschild  (1.5L)     Buy Now  $2495.00

1988 Mouton-Rothschild  (750ml)  Buy Now  $395.00

2003 Mouton-Rothschild  (750ml)  Buy Now  $485.00

2005 Mouton-Rothschild  (750ml)  Buy Now  $669.95

2009 Mouton-Rothschild  (750ml)   Buy Now  $799.95

California’s Drought & Wine Country

A close-up of damaged grape vines in Michael Vandborg’s drought stricken vineyard in the Lamont farming community in southeastern Joaquin Valley in Kern County, CA on Feb. 26, 2014. USDA photo by David Kosling.

It’s the middle of March, and Californians from San Francisco to San Diego are enjoying glorious amounts of weather worthy of a coastline cruise in a convertible.  Rosé weather during Thanksgiving weekend?  Yes!  Beach day in December?  That’s right.  Our warm weather induces eye-rolls from our friends out East, who have been literally buried under record-breaking amounts of snow until recently. But the sunshine comes with a price – California is entering our 4th year of drought, the worst we’ve had in over a century, causing havoc and economic hardship in the agriculture sector.

The drought has given winemakers all over California some cause for concern, due to the potential damage that the lack of water can cause to the vines, should the vines dry up completely.  Last year, vineyard owners had to prune and harvest sooner than usual, as the grapes ripened faster due to the copious amount of sun they were receiving.  Many vintners have turned to dry-farming, in the face of a growing water shortage, but some say this changes the character and taste of the grape dramatically.  And, less water used can mean less yield from the vines, in turn decreasing overall wine production.  Wine shortage, people.  It could happen.

The silver lining in all of this?  The 2014 vintage could turn out to be a spectacular one.  Grapes are fairly drought resistant, and the stress of getting less water means smaller berries with more concentrated sugar & flavors.  This may mean higher quality wine with greater aging possibility.  Vintages during drought years, such as 2012 and 2013, garnered better rankings in publications such as Wine Advocate, than rainier years like 2011.  What do you predict for the 2014 vintage, and 2015 harvest?  Share your thoughts in our comments section.

Here are a few Vinfolio selections from drought years 2012 & 2013:

2013 Aubert – Chardonnay Eastside Vineyard  (98-100 pts, Wine Advocate)

2012 Schrader – Cabernet Sauvignon (LPB) Las Piedras Vineyard (96-98 pts, Wine Advocate)

2012 Orin Swift – Papillon (93 points, Wine Advocate)

2012 Arietta – H Block Hudson Vineyard (92-94 pts, International Wine Cellar)

Perfect Gifts For Wine Lovers

The holidays have arrived and it’s that time of the year when you have to start thinking about gift giving. Still don’t know what to give your friend that’s a wine lover or collector? Here are some great suggestions to get you started.   

 

A BOTTLE MATCHED PERFECTLY TO THE COLLECTOR

bottles

As a wine gift, there’s nothing like the simplest gift of them all: a beautiful bottle of wine. Vinfolio is here to recommend the ideal wine for your friends, whether they be collectors, connoisseurs, or just someone who occasionally enjoys a fine wine. This year’s wine gift guide offers suggestions for each of one of them. Give them a wine from one of our collections and you’ll make an outstanding impression at your next holiday soirée.

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The Future of Wine Provenance Is Bitcoin

Digital Provenance: How Wine Bottles Will Be Tracked Using Bitcoin

Introduction

Bitcoin is going to revolutionize the way that wine provenance is understood in the digital age.  Imagine a world in which you hold ownership of both a physical bottle of wine and a unique digital record that verifies exactly who owned the bottle of wine before you – traceable all the way back to the original producer.  Bitcoin has created a platform that enables digital asset transfers across the internet.  The wine industry is now presented with the opportunity to leverage an emerging technology to make digital provenance a reality.  By associating each physical asset (a wine bottle) with a digital asset (a minuscule fraction of a bitcoin), one can create a traceable, pseudo-anonymous, decentralized, permanent historical archive of wine transactions.

Continue reading The Future of Wine Provenance Is Bitcoin

7 Great Tasting Rooms for World Travelers

Truly passionate wine lovers know that tasting wine involves all the senses.  A beautiful glass of wine can pair well with innovative architecture, eye-catching vistas, relaxing accommodations, and of course, first class food, so we’re bringing you seven of our favorite wineries where tasting is an experience to behold.  We know there are dozens of stunning wineries out there to see, so if we missed your personal favorite, give us your recommendation in the comments below!

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The Grand Chai at Chateau Mouton-Rothschild

Chateau Mouton-Rothschild (Pauillac, Bordeaux, France)

One of Bordeaux’s jewels, Chateau Mouton-Rothschild received “first growth” status in 1973. A tasting here is not simply a tasting – it’s an event. The tour begins with a short film on the history of the estate, and continues with a stroll through an elegantly designed, state-of-the-art vat room, Grand Chai (Great Barrel Hall – designed by architect Charles Siclis), and private museum of carefully curated wine artifacts, culminating in a tasting of several of their world-famous wines.

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The iconic Opus One Winery

Opus One (Oakville, Napa Valley, USA)

A collaboration between the Baron Philippe de Rothschild and Robert Mondavi, this winery was founded in 1980 and merges old and new world styles into a harmonious Magnum Opus. The iconic winery, designed by Scott Johnson, has beautifully sculptural archways, halls of classic French-style furniture mixed with more contemporary pieces, and a stunning semi-circular barrel room (if one can call a chai “stunning”, this one is!), not to mention the wonderful view of the vineyards from the terrace. The tasting room itself is quite intimate, but just the right atmosphere for enjoying a glass of their ultra-premium wines.

Continue reading 7 Great Tasting Rooms for World Travelers