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Executive editor Thomas Matthews joined Wine Spectator in 1988. His tasting beat is Spain.
Thomas Matthews

An Elegant First-Growth Bordeaux

Château Mouton-Rothschild Pauillac 1997

Thomas Matthews
Posted: January 12, 2010

For Christmas dinner, I cooked my mother’s traditional menu: standing rib roast of beef with mushroom gravy and Yorkshire pudding. I had a lineup of red Bordeaux to accompany the feast.

The meat was out of the oven, resting, and the gravy was bubbling on the stove when I asked my friend Jim to open the Mouton. (Don’t ask about the Yorkshire pudding. Never again!) As he began pouring the wine into the decanter, he sniffed a few times, then smiled with delight.

“The aromas in this kitchen are just incredible,” Jim exclaimed. “The savory, earthy notes from the gravy and the beef marry so beautifully with the dried fruit, tobacco and cedar of the wine. This is what it’s all about!” We rated the Mouton 89 points on its own, non-blind, but 94 points with the food.

For Bordeaux, 1997 was not a great vintage, but this bottle was drinking well, balanced between youth and age, not powerful, but polished and elegant. And while it may have seemed expensive at the time, in retrospect, it looks a lot like a bargain. Maybe it’s a good sign for the wines from the 2007 vintage—it appears to be similar in style and quality, and early reports are that prices will be discounted significantly. Let’s hope the wines can give this much pleasure 10 years hence.

WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind tasting review for Château Mouton-Rothschild Pauillac 1997 (89, $129).

• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated red Bordeaux.

Mark Sinnott
Issaquah, WA —  January 12, 2010 2:51pm ET
$129 for an 89-point wine is a bargain? Compared to what? Seems like you were drinking the label, not the wine.
Steve Kirchner
huntington beach, ca —  January 12, 2010 4:32pm ET
you've made me feel better about buying 2008 ch. latour ($199). i figured it might be the only opportunity i'd ever get to afford that wine. something to look forward to in the early 20's.
Thomas Matthews
New York City —  January 12, 2010 4:41pm ET
Mark, I'm not claiming it's inexpensive, but considering that the 2000 Mouton was released at $395 and the 2005 at $680, and considering how much pleasure this 1997 gave (and yes, part of the pleasure was sharing a First Growth with close friends), I felt the wine delivered good value.
Lorenzo Erlic
victoria canada —  January 12, 2010 5:31pm ET
Back in 2005 I served a 1996 Mouton to the family along with Christmas dinner. The combined aromas of the Mouton, roasted turkey and fresh shaved Piedmont white truffle went beyond anything I`ve ever experienced before. Family is everything after all!
Thomas Matthews
New York City —  January 13, 2010 9:04am ET
Lorenzo, What is it about sharing wine with family and friends that makes it even better?
Jamie Magid
New York City —  January 13, 2010 1:25pm ET
Thomas I think you make a very nice point. I enjoy my wine most when shared with family and friends.

Lorenzo Can I come to your house for Christmas next year? You bring the truffles I'll bring the wine
Alex Bernardo
Millbrae, CA —  January 14, 2010 2:55pm ET

Nice post. If 07 Mouton goes down to $129, I'm buying.
Lorenzo Erlic
victoria canada —  February 1, 2010 8:59pm ET
I can best summarize it this way... Whatever you find, feel or master over along the way it is your imperative to share such knowledge or wisdom with those closest to you. Both good and bad; of course what we are discussing here is the BEST! Cheers to everyone and yes Jamie you are welcome over for a Christmas dinner in the near future. Piedmont White Truffle courtesy of Rei Hanscomb at the La Buona Tavola Truffle Cafe, Pike Place Market, Seattle Washington... Make sure the wine is worthy of us all!

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