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.
93-96/100 Robert Parker Jr. Mouton’s classic note of creme de cassis is well-displayed in this inky purple-colored wine. Significantly more powerful, rich and textured than its nearby neighbor, Lafite Rothschild, Mouton boasts superb intensity, stunning concentration, and plenty of sweet tannin. This is an impressively built, full-throttle wine that will require 5-8 years of cellaring and should keep for 25-30 years thereafter. It should prove to be one of the longest-lived wines of the vintage.
19/20 Steven Spurrier, Decanter. Ripe black fruits on the nose, the succulence expected from Mouton with wonderful depth, purity and richness of texture, a great example of the vineyard. Drink 2017-2040.
93-95/100 Andrew Caillard MW. Deep colour. Roasted chestnut/ ceda/ inky/ black currant aromas. Sweet smooth chocolaty wine with roasted chestnut/ praline flavours, silky/ chalky tannins. Plume of tannins at the finish. Very buoyant but muscular wine.
93-96/100 James Molesworth, Wine Spectator. Delivers a pure beam of cassis, raspberry and cherry, with lightly toasted spice notes and a firm plum skin edge holding sway on the finish. Stretched out somewhat already, this seems nicely tuned and has good buried minerality.
17.5/20 Julia Harding MW, Jancie Robinson. 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc. Deep crimson. Exotically spiced, warm red fruits. Exotic, prettily aromatic, delicate and pretty gentle on the palate. Subtle and harmonious. Cedary freshness and a fluidity on the finish and a note of oak char at the very end. It seems just so soft but Philippe Dhalluin assures us the tannins (or at least the polyphenol index) is very similar to last year so I am giving it the benefit of the doubt.
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.