Get to know the wines of Château Mouton Rothschild

Tour the estate that revolutionised Bordeaux with innovative techniques and artist-designed labels. Tim Triptree, Master of Wine and Christie’s International Director, offers an insider’s guide to the best Mouton vintages

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Château Mouton Rothschild is one of the most famous names in fine wine, with a reputation for producing incredibly complex, harmonious and long-lived red Bordeaux.

Mouton has a habit of making history

The story began in 1853 when Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild bought Château Brane-Mouton and renamed it Mouton Rothschild. The 90-hectare estate is located in the heart of Pauillac, an appellation famous for the outstanding quality and longevity of its Cabernet Sauvignon–dominant Bordeaux blends.

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Façade Château Mouton Rothschild. ©Alain Benoit (Deepix)

Baron Philippe de Rothschild took over the ownership of the Estate in 1922. He was an innovator who revolutionised how things were done in Bordeaux. He introduced many firsts that were subsequently widely adopted. For example in 1924, he began bottling his wines at the Château, a practice that was virtually unheard of at the time.

The bottles are works of art

Iconic labels are another feature of Mouton, begun in 1924 when Baron Philippe commissioned the artist Jean Carlu to design their new label. In 1945, to celebrate the Allied Année de la Victoire, the artist Philippe Juillan designed the emblematic V label.

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Château Mouton-Rothschild, 1945. 8 bottles per lot. Sold for HKD 1,062,500 in Grands Crus Part III on 24 March 2023 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

Since then, each vintage boasts unique label art by an esteemed artist, a tradition that continues to this day. Works by Picasso, Kandinsky, Dalí, Bacon, Warhol, Koons and Hockney have all featured on the labels, only adding to the collectability of the wines. In lieu of payment, the artists are reputedly rewarded with wine, receiving a selection of the Château’s renowned vintages.

The terroir is the envy of the region

After missing out on the original 1855 Classification of the Médoc, Château Mouton Rothschild was promoted to First-Growth status in 1973, achieving Baron Philippe’s long-held goal.

Much of the Mouton vineyard is situated on the Plateau du Mouton, a small hill with an ideal terroir of deep, gravelly, well-drained soils planted with over 80 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, along with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and a small amount of Petit Verdot. Viticulture and vinification are meticulous at every step, ensuring the highest quality in the finished wines.

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Château Mouton Rothschild vat room. ©Deepix

The Grand Vin is characterised by its richness of cassis aromas and flavours. Its firm tannic structure enables the wines to age gracefully over many years and develop incredible complexity and multifaceted aromatic intensity. In 1993 their second wine, Le Petit Mouton, was created using younger vines that do not go into the Grand Vin. Since the 1991 vintage Mouton has produced an exceptional white called Aile d’Argent, from seven hectares planted with the classic white Bordeaux blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Sauvignon Gris and Muscadelle.

Choose from the crème de la crème

Château Mouton Rothschild has produced numerous exceptional vintages that are highly coveted at auction. Arguably the 1945 is the most renowned and sought-after. This extraordinarily complex and intense, long-lived wine — still drinking superbly today — was the result of a dry, warm summer that resulted in rich, concentrated and structured wines, produced under exceptional circumstances towards the end of World War II.

Michael Broadbent MW rated the 1945 Mouton extremely highly, granting it his rarely given score of six stars. I’ve been lucky to taste this most recently in 2021, and I was bowled over by the youthfulness and sheer exuberance of aroma and flavour of this stunning wine. It’s one of the very best wines I have been fortunate to taste.

Château Mouton Rothschild 2021: Unique Lot and Experience. 6 bottles, 3 magnums, 1 double-magnum, 1 imperial and 1 nebuchadnezzar. Sold for €237,500 on 8 December 2023 at Christie’s online

Additional highlights include the superlative 1959, another excellent vintage for red Bordeaux and a favourite of Broadbent, who described ‘Magnificence piled upon magnificence’ in his tasting note, saying it vies with the 1945 as one of the greatest ever vintages of Mouton. The 1961 vintage of Mouton was highly successful, with dry weather conditions in August and September producing small concentrated berries resulting in deeply flavoured, rich, concentrated wines with firm tannic structure for long-term ageing.

It would be fascinating to taste the now fully mature 1959 and 1961 side by side; my previous tastings would suggest that the 1959 just edges out the 1961 in richness and complexity and will last the longest of the two vintages despite being a few years older.

The 1980s were a reawakening

The 1982 Mouton is a stunning wine that I have been fortunate enough to taste on numerous occasions. Produced from the outstanding 1982 harvest that reinvigorated the market for Bordeaux after a run of less-than-stellar vintages in the 1970s, it rarely disappoints. A classic Mouton that epitomises why Bordeaux remains an integral component of any serious collector’s cellar, the 1982 reveals aromas of cedar, cigar box, mocha and spices with a rich core of cassis fruit flavours and an impeccable balance of vibrancy and richness.

Château Mouton Rothschild, 1982. 120 bottles per lot. Estimate: $70,000-100,000. Offered in Bordeaux Classics: The Masterpiece Collection on 15-29 February at Christie’s online

Château Mouton Rothschild, 1990. 6 Magnums per lot. Estimate: $3,500-5,000. Offered in Bordeaux Classics: The Masterpiece Collection on 15-29 February at Christie’s online

The 1986 Mouton is another superb wine from the Estate, arguably the finest from Bordeaux that year and vying with the 1982 as the best vintage from that fabled decade. A classic blend of 80 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 10 per cent Merlot, 8 per cent Cabernet Franc and 2 per cent Petit Verdot, this brooding, rich and concentrated tannic red has considerable ageing potential.

In the 1990s the Estate produced many excellent vintages, and the 1995 and 1996 are no exception. The 1995 is a blend of 72 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 19 per cent Merlot and 9 per cent Cabernet Franc harvested from 12 to 27 September. The 1996 was harvested slightly later, from 27 September to 9 October, and from almost the same blend with 77 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 13 per cent Merlot, and 10 per cent Cabernet Franc. Both are highly expressive and harmonious wines with a long life ahead.

Château Mouton Rothschild, 1995. 12 bottles per lot. Estimate: $4,500-5,500. Offered in Bordeaux Classics: The Masterpiece Collection on 15-29 February at Christie’s online

Château Mouton-Rothschild, 2000. 12 bottles per lot. Sold for $35,000 in Fine & Rare Wines on 1 February 2022 at Christie’s online

Mouton enters the 21st century

The 2000 vintage from Mouton has become highly collectible, due to not only its outstanding quality but also its distinctive bottle. Here the Augsburg Ram — a 16th-century silver-gilt German drinking vessel that resides in the Château’s Museum of Art in Wine — has been illustrated in gold enamel directly on the bottle. A deeply coloured and intensely concentrated wine produced from 86 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and 14 per cent Merlot, the millennium vintage is only just beginning to reveal the complexities of aromas and flavours from bottle evolution, making it another exceptional Mouton for the long haul.

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