Château Mouton-Rothschild is revered for its powerful expressions of Pauillac’s terroir, its art labels, its compelling history and its people. All were on fine display during a vertical tasting at the 2022 New York Wine Experience, where co-owner Philippe Sereys de Rothschild and estate manager Jean-Emmanuel Danjoy shared four vintages of the Bordeaux first-growth’s grand vin, each a decade apart.
The wines testified to Philippe’s belief that “wine is about stories, about the mixture of cultures, about understanding people or not understanding people—and that’s the joy of the activity that I’m in.”
Danjoy started at Napa’s Opus One (founded as a partnership between the Rothschild and Mondavi families) before coming to Bordeaux, where he also oversees operations at fifth-growth châteaus Clerc Milon and d’Armailhac. He humbly pointed out the importance of “teamwork [and] attention to people, to details” in his winemaking approach.
As at the 2015 Wine Experience, Philippe paid tribute to his mother, Baroness Philippine 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 Philippe’s jovial threats to bestow another kiss, this year’s vertical remained smooch-free.
In the Château Mouton-Rothschild Pauillac 2016 (98 points, $652), Molesworth praised the purity of fruit and observed that, unlike many Left Bank estates, Mouton has kept the percentage of Merlot in the blend relatively constant. Danjoy recognized the wine’s “huge personality” and admitted that “we didn’t know what we had in our hands” until halfway through harvest.
Philippe called attention to the William Kentridge label, which depicts a Bacchanal and “symbolizes what wine has to be … sharing, enjoyment, dancing, amusement and emotions.” About Mouton’s art label tradition, started by his grandfather Baron Philippe, he observed: “Wine is worldwide, art is worldwide … perceptions, affections, memories, all these things are worldwide.”
Molesworth described the 2006 (95, $820) as a “battleship,” typical of Mouton’s firm tannic structure. In the 1996 (96, $188), he singled out the relatively high percentage of Cabernet Franc, which lent the wine classic tobacco notes and silky tannins.
Last and, judging by the crowd’s enthusiastic approval, greatest was the 1986 (99, $95), Molesworth’s description of which elicited Philippine’s peck in 2011. Philippe called attention to the resemblance of the label, by Haitian-American painter Bernard Séjourné, to the masks used in ancient theatre, one of his actress mother’s many passions.
When Molesworth asked if he had a favorite among the four vintages, Philippe responded with a gentle sigh. “The painters you liked when you were 15 are not the same as the painters you liked when you were 25 … your emotions, your perceptions, your affection for things change, and that’s why we are human beings. So the day I [am] able to answer your question is the day my emotions [and] perceptions will stop. It will be the saddest day of my life.”