One of the very greatest estates of Bordeaux, Château Mouton Rothschild is in the commune of Pauillac in the Haut-Medoc, 50km north-west of the city of Bordeaux. Its Château wine or ‘grand vin’ is among the world’s most highly-rated and expensive. Excluded from the highest rank (Premier Cru or First Growth) of the famous Bordeaux Classification of 1855, Mouton was finally promoted in 1973 after decades of lobbying by Baron Philippe de Rothschild, who ran the estate from 1922 until his death in 1988. Mouton was first in the region to bottle at the estate, rather than shipping its wine to merchants for bottling elsewhere.
Since 1924 artists including Braque, Dali, Picasso, Henry Moore, Miro, Chagall, Kandinsky, Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon, David Hockney and Lucian Freud have been commissioned to produce artworks for the Mouton label. Mouton, uniquely among the First Growths, remains in the hands of the same family as it was at the time of the 1855 Classification. The vineyards are on slopes with gravel-based soils leading down to the Gironde estuary and total 75ha – 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. The Château wine is (unusually) fermented in large oak vats and then matured in new oak barrels for between 19 and 22 months. Total production of the ‘grand vin’ is 20,000 dozen or less. There is a ‘second wine’, Le Petit Mouton, established in 1993. The ‘grand vin’ is noted for its flamboyance – exotic, powerful aromas of cassis, minerals, tobacco leaf and graphite, an opulent palate and impressive length of flavour.
I drank this 2004 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild the other night at home with some wine producers. I decanted it only right before serving - a mistake made while concentrating on the cooking food. On the nose there were coffee and chocolate aromas with hints of vanilla. It was super fruity, and its medium body was coupled with beautifully soft tannins. This is just coming around now and it's very New World in style. Overall, a much overlooked vintage from Mouton. 94 points, jamessuckling.com (6/2016)
Supple and grand, Mouton has a heavenly richness in 2004. The flavours are saturated with blackberry and black-cherry fruit, bright on the aroma, quieter and softer in the end. The wine has a laconic beauty, closed off behind its oak and stony tannin. With several days of air, the succulence of the fruit grows more prominent as it will with 15 to 20 years of age. 94 points (10/2007).
The 2004 Mouton Rothschild is supple, forward and inviting. Dark cherry, plum, tobacco and grilled herbs are all pushed forward. This is an especially succulent Mouton, partly because of the high percentage of Merlot that was common during this era. Gravel, pencil shavings, smoke and cured meats add myriad shades of nuance on the powerful, explosive finish. Philippe Dhalluin told me he waited as long as possible to harvest in 2004, the driest vintage Mouton had seen up until that point. The blend is 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot harvested between September 29 and October 15. 93 points, Vinous (5/2016).
Beautiful aromas of crushed berries and chocolate, with hints of Indian spices. Full-bodied, with silky, velvety tannins and a long, caressing finish. This is the first wine from the new winemaking team at Mouton and is showing really well. 93 points, Wine Spectator (3/2007).
Good full ruby-red. Expressive aromas of currant, coffee, dark chocolate, tobacco, mocha and smoked meat. Juicy, spicy and classically dry; rather tight and backward for 2004 and not a particularly fleshy style, even if it's nicely sweetened by nutty oak. But this boasts excellent precision and verve and the aromatic finishing flavours build slowly and steadily. Firm acids and tannins give this plenty of backbone for development in bottle. With extended aeration, the texture became silkier. 92 points, Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar (6/2007)
The 2004 Mouton-Rothschild was the first vintage for Philippe Dhalluin, who was so successful in persuading the late Philippine de Rothschild to institute a more strict selection with respect to Mouton-Rothschild. The outstanding 2004 exhibits delicious notes of cedarwood, Christmas fruitcake, blackcurrants and toast. The wine possesses outstanding concentration, medium to full body, excellent purity, hints of forest floor and underbrush, and sweet, velvety tannin. 90 points, The Wine Advocate (12/2014).
Dhalluin’s first 100% harvest. Picked the young vines separately and sacrificed them. A transition vintage. 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, 14% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot. Wanted to avoid a revolution. Very strict selection. Just 50% of the total crop. ‘My predecessor was allowed to make far more Mouton. Very good, very Mouton nose. Mouton has an advantage in cooler years because of our sunny terroir. But in very hot vintages, we have to work very hard and be very careful to avoid overripeness. We always have two to three days in advance.’ Dark crimson. Fresh and gorgeous. Ready. Just very very slightly stringy on the end. 18/20 points, jancisrobinson.com (7/2015).
Pauillac is Bordeaux’s most acclaimed appellation, the only one with three Premier Cru properties: Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Latour. These and other Pauillac chateaux produce robust, full-flavored and long-lived red wines made from Cabernet-based blends. Though winemaking techniques and microclimates vary throughout Pauillac, producing some variations in style, classic Pauillac wines have juicy flavours of blackcurrant and cedar, often with coffee, chocolate and graphite notes. Pauillac, part of the Médoc region on Bordeaux’s Left Bank, has gravelly and well-drained soils that force vines to grow long and strong roots. Struggling a bit for water, the vines produce grapes with high tannins and concentrated juices. Nearby rivers and the Atlantic Ocean modulate temperatures, preventing the grapes from ripening too quickly. Such grapes make powerful wines that may age and improve for decades. However, in Pauillac, as in other old-world wine regions, some winemakers are working to develop softer red wines that maintain the local wines’ traditional substance and flavours, but are more approachable immediately upon release.