Fine Wine Focus: Chateau Mouton Rothschild
Posted on March 09 2016
Personally, I have a bit of a ‘see-saw’ relationship with the top wine from Chateau Mouton Rothschild. The prestigious First-Growth Chateau from Pauillac is responsible for some of the most profound wine experiences of my life, and also the most disappointing. I suppose when such lofty expectations and price-tags are placed upon some wines, it is easy to be underwhelmed.
1982 Baron Philippe de Rothschild Chateau Mouton Rothschild
The 1982 Chateau Mouton Rothschild is one of the most iconic and inspiring Bordeaux I’ve had the pleasure to taste. The legendary vintage collected many trophies, but perhaps this 100 pointer from Robert Parker is the most iconic of the class. The wine seemed eternal. If, as a child, you were fortunate to meet one of your sports heroes, you may recall the overwhelming sense of power and almost godliness that loomed over you in their presence. To be so awe-struck by a larger than life character is one of the most memorable sensations I experienced as a child. There are few times in my life since that I have been overcome with the same emotions as an adult. Once was at the feet of Michelangelo’s David in Florence, another was after tasting the 1982 Chateau Mouton Rothschild. (Average price £1400 per bottle)
2000 Baron Philippe de Rothschild Chateau Mouton Rothschild
At an almost identical retail price (Average price £1,300-£1499), the 2000 Chateau Mouton Rothschild has been lauded by many critics and merchants as a trophy worthy of lofty comparisons to its iconic older brother. The memorable design of the unique bottle only adds to the mystique of the wine and the elevation of its already sky-high prestige.
Imagine then the disappointment when I tasted a wine that fell a bit heavily and flat. It felt slightly over-ripened, over-oaked, and lacking the structure and tension to truly demand one’s attention. While there were plenty of appetising flavours and aromas, overall it lacked the posture needed for an impressive evolution deep into the future. Fairly or not, when a wine’s price climbs into this category, the expectations for profoundness surely climb with it. And with this price-tag, I will recommend my clients put the money elsewhere 10 times out of 10.
So this is my personal Chateau Mouton Rothschild spectrum. I am the proudest ambassador of one trophy and the harshest critic of another. Between both ends I have found much pleasure and delight.
1996 Baron Philippe de Rothschild Chateau Mouton Rothschild
When considering relative value of this great estate, I am constantly amazed that whole vintages are often overlooked. At about one third of the price of the 2000, the 1996 Chateau Mouton Rothschild (£525 in stock at The Good Wine Shop) shines powerfully. It has all of the classic, masculine aromas you would hope for including cedar, tobacco, & cooked meat; countered with voluptuous, seductive black fruits and currants all on top of a captivating structure and fine, gripping tannins. I not-so-shyly expect the ’96 to age longer and more gracefully than the ’00.
2004 Baron Philippe de Rothschild Chateau Mouton Rothschild
For even greater value, the 2004 Chateau Mouton Rothschild (£399 in stock at The Good Wine Shop) flies well under the radar. Admittedly, this is not the Mouton to lay down in the cellar for decades to come. But for an impressive drinking experience, there are few Bordeaux First Growths which you will find at this price and perhaps none which will deliver the same pleasure or value.
At Chateau Mouton Rothschild, 2004 was the first vintage under Philippe Dhalluin who persuaded the late Philippine de Rothschild to institute a stricter selection with respect to the wine. They produced far fewer bottles than had been released in previous vintages, focusing instead on the highest level of quality. In a somewhat challenging vintage, Mons. Dhalluin crafted a great wine with restraint and uncompromised integrity by limiting what he allowed to go into their top label.
I have been shouting to anyone who will listen that 2004 is my favourite current drinking vintage of Left-Bank Bordeaux since the turn of the millennium, and this is certainly one of the best of the lot. Dense fruits, seductive tannins, and wonderful hints of cedar and tobacco. The wine has a bit of a forest-y character which contrasts beautifully against the soft fruit aromas and smooth but structured mouthfeel. A true pleasure to drink now.
There is a chance you are reading this and the 2000 Chateau Mouton Rothschild is your “Michelangelo’s David”. And I love that. I love how unique the experience is and how individual everyone’s palates are…
But it does seem like a good excuse to cook some lamb, crack open a bottle of Mouton and discuss our disagreements until the glasses are empty. Cheers!