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.
The 2010 Mouton possesses the highest level of Cabernet Sauvignon (94%) of any wine this estate has produced. Combined with 6% Merlot, the wine achieved 13.9% natural alcohol. Under director Philippe Dhalluin, the harvest was accomplished between September 28 and October 13, and only 49% of the crop made it into this powerful effort. Reminiscent of the 1986, it is a 50-60 year wine that is not meant for consumers looking for near-term gratification. This backward, tannic, full-bodied, exceptionally promising 2010 reveals enormous weight along with extravagant levels of precise, fresh boysenberry and creme de cassis fruit. The abundant minerality is due no doubt to the fresh acidity. In need of at least 15 years of cellaring, it will undoubtedly remain an infant at age 25 (as does the 1986). 97-100 points, The Wine Advocate.
Tasted at the Mouton-Rothschild vertical in London, the 2010 Mouton-Rothschild is a modern-day benchmark for the First Growth and here, side-by-side with the 2009, it certainly has its nose in front. It is in possession of quite breathtaking delineation and precision, a crystalline bouquet with black fruit laced with minerals, potent pencil shaving notes, a touch of cold slate. It is totally entrancing. The palate has beguiling symmetry, but for me what really distinguishes this Mouton is its effortlessness. Like watching Usain Bolt in his prime sprinting to another world record, this wine is almost self-effacing in terms of its brilliance. Will Philippe Dhalluin ever better this Mouton-Rothschild? Keep it in the cellar for 15 years, if you know what's good for you. 99 points, The Wine Advocate (5/2016).
This is pure Cabernet Sauvignon magic with incredible aromas of currants, blackberries and light spices. Tiny hints of hazelnut. Wet earth. Full body, with super velvety tannins. The purity of fruit is breathtaking. It goes on for minutes. This is 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot. Try after 2020. 100 points, jamessuckling.com
Deep ruby-red. Great soil-driven aromas of cassis, licorice, graphite and loam. Hugely dense, seamless and concentrated, but with ripe, harmonious acidity giving definition to the plush flavors of creme de cassis, bitter chocolate, minerals and loam. Most impressive today on the mounting, palate-staining finish, which is almost painful yet manages to convey a light touch. Endlessly complex and vibrant wine with decades of positive evolution ahead of it. One of my favourites of this outstanding vintage. 97+ points, Vinous.
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.