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Ch Mouton-Rothschild, Medoc, Bordeaux





A visit to Chateau Mouton-Rothschild where I tasted the much praised 2010 vintage from barrel was a highlight of my week in Bordeaux.

Is there any wine lover that has not heard of Mouton-Rothschild? It is one of the five Premier Crus Classés, or First Growths, its wines are very extremely expensive and in great demand and every year its label bears a specially commissioned work of art from different famous artists who have included Picasso, Dali, Bacon, and Balthus.

There are major reconstruction works underway at Mouton-Rothschild. Its huge above ground cellar – known as a chai – is being remodelled, and the website says that all visits have been ‘suspended for an indeterminate period.’

Luckily I was using the services of Hamish Wakes-Miller of Bella Wine Tours as tour organiser/translator and driver and Hamish knew the magic words to get an appointment.

We arrived and were greeted. No winery tour was possible because of the construction works but we chose to see the introductory film shown to tour visitors, and then a small gift shop that had souvenir postcards and posters with reproductions of the artist labels. Then we were taken to a tasting room with a large table in its centre and lined all round with a bench with recessed sinks for spitting out wine.

Our Chateau Mouton-Rothschild guide told us that the 2010 vintage that we were soon to taste had a record amount of Cabernet Sauvignon with 94% and just 6% Merlot. Production was 38 hectolitres per hectare and around 200,000 bottles would be produced, although not all the production would be released.

Our guide then produced a half bottle filled with a sample of the 2010 vintage taken from barrel. Mouton-Rothschild is fermented in oak vats and aged in 100% new French oak barriques. What was unusual was the bottle bore a special sample label, (pictured right).

Others have raved about the exceptional 2010 Bordeaux vintage and this particular wine. It was as purple in the glass as an emperor’s robe, and filled the mouth with spices, cassis and creamy vanilla. It was a rich and powerful wine. And I calculated that the half bottle contained £400 ($650) worth of wine so my partners and I tasted the wine and swallowed instead of spitting, and then had a second pour to make sure. Lovely stuff.

Mouton gets its name from the Gascon (the ancient language of the region) word for a small hill, but in French mouton means sheep. The Chateau has fun making puns of the name. Lamp shades are in the shape of a ram’s head and even the tasting room table’s legs were curved to evoke rams horns.

Outside is a small demonstration vineyard planted with all the varieties growing on the estate, with the number of rows in proportion to actual plantings. As well as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, there was Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petite Verdot and the rare Carménère. Ch Mouton Rothschild also makes a small amount of white wine from Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle. We were encouraged to pick and taste the grapes, and although harvest wouldn’t be for another month the grapes were sweet juicy and almost ripe.

We visited Ch Mouton Rothschild after our time at Ch Tour St Bonnet, so seeing two extremes of Bordeaux on the day. One wine cost more than 100 times the cost of the other, but do you get 100 times more enjoyment from the expensive wine?

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Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa’s Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape, also available for the Kindle and Apple iPad.




Disclosure: Peter F May visited Bordeaux at his own expense. All accommodation, meals, food, wine, transport tour-guides and visits were paid for.

Peter engaged Hamish Wakes-Miller of Bella Wine Tours www.bellawinetours.com to organise his visit to Bordeaux






The specially labelled tasting sample taken from the barrel







Mouton Rothschild's chai






Cabernet Sauvignon grapes growing at Ch Mouton-Rothschild






Light fitting in tasting room






Location of Ch Mouton Rothschild






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