Château Mouton-Rothschild is revered for its powerful expressions of Paulillac terroir, its art labels, its fascinating history and its people. All were on good display during a vertical tasting at the New York Wine Experience 2022, where co-owner Philippe Sereys de Rothschild and estate manager Jean-Emmanuel Danjoy shared four vintages from Bordeaux’s first growth great wineeach a decade apart.
The wines testify to Philip’s belief that “wine is about stories, a mix of cultures, understanding or misunderstanding people – and that’s the joy of what I do.”
Danjoy started at Napa’s Opus One (founded as a partnership between the Rothschild and Mondavi families) before coming to Bordeaux, where he also led operations at the fifth-largest chateaux Clerc Milon and d’Armailhac. He humbly emphasized the importance of “teamwork [and] attention to people, to details” in his approach to winemaking.
As at the 2015 Wine Experience, Philippe paid tribute to his mother, Baroness Philippe de Rothschild, who died in 2014. Molesworth fondly recalled tasting the Mouton 1986 at the 2011 Wine Experience, where the baroness kissed him on the cheek. Despite Philip’s gleeful threats to deliver another kiss, this year’s vertical went without a hug.
In the 2016 Château Mouton-Rothschild Pauillac (98 points, $652), Molesworth praised the purity of the fruit and noted that, unlike many Left Bank estates, Mouton has kept the percentage of Merlot in the blend relatively constant. Danjoy recognized the wine’s “tremendous personality” and admitted that “we didn’t know what we had on our hands” until mid-harvest.
Philip drew attention to William Kentridge’s label, which depicts a bacchanal and “symbolises what wine should be… sharing, enjoyment, dancing, fun and emotion”. Of Mouton’s art label tradition, started by his grandfather Baron Philippe, he noted: “The wine is global, the art is global…the perceptions, the feelings, the memories, all these things are global.”
Molesworth describes the 2006 (95, $820) as a “battleship” typical of Mouton’s firm tannin structure. In the 1996 (96, $188) he highlights the relatively high percentage of Cabernet Franc, which gives the wine classic tobacco notes and silky tannins.
The latest, and judging by the crowd’s enthusiastic approval, the biggest was 1986 ($99, $95), whose description of Molesworth prompted the Philippines’ approval in 2011. Philippe drew attention to the label’s resemblance to Haitian-American artist Bernard Sejournet. , with masks used in the ancient theater, one of the many passions of his actress mother.
When Molesworth asked if he had a favorite among the four vintages, Philippe replied with a slight sigh. “The artists you liked when you were 15 are not the same artists you liked when you were 25… your emotions, your perceptions, your attachment to things change and that’s why we’re human beings. So the day I [am] able to answer your question is the day my emotions [and] perceptions will cease. This will be the saddest day of my life.”