Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, owner of Bordeaux first-growth Château Mouton-Rothschild and a monumental figure in the wine industry, passed away Friday, Aug. 22, following complications from surgery. She was 80.
Baroness Philippine took over the running of her family estates, which also include the Châteaus Clerc-Milon and d'Armailhac, as well as the global success Mouton Cadet, following her father's death in 1988. As chairwoman of Baron Philippe de Rothschild S.A., she steered both Mouton and the other properties to new qualitative heights and was one of Bordeaux's most prominent figures. She also played a leading role at Opus One, the Napa Valley winery her father had started with vintner Robert Mondavi and his family.
"Philippine was a bright and enduring star," said Marvin R. Shanken, editor and publisher of Wine Spectator. "The whole world of wine will miss her."
Philippine Mathilde Camille de Rothschild was born on Nov. 22, 1933, in Paris. As a young woman, she built a successful acting career under the stage name of Philippine Pascal. Her first marriage was to actor and director Jacques Sereys; the couple had two children. Her second marriage was to Jean-Pierre de Beaumarchais, with whom she had a son.
Philippine's acting background proved beneficial when she entered her family's wine business in the early 1980s, as she used a commanding presence and penchant for flair in carrying on her father's legacy after he passed away in 1988.
While continuing Mouton's famed tradition of picking a different artist to design the label with each new vintage she also brought in new changes. She introduced a second wine to Mouton's production, Le Petit Mouton, in the early 1990s. She launched a new partnership in Chile, Viña Almaviva, with Chilean winery Concha y Toro. In 1998, she purchased a 250-acre estate in Limoux, in France's Languedoc region, and renamed it Domaine de Baron'arques.
In 2003, she hired Philippe Dhalluin as general director of Mouton and the two helped spur the estate to new qualitative heights, making subtle shifts in the winemaking to emphasize more purity rather than brute power in the wine. She also oversaw the construction of a new chai at Mouton, which was completed in time for the 2013 harvest.
She is survived by her husband and three children: Camille, Philippe and Julien. Both her sons hold positions at the company. "The whole family was with her at the end, which made everything better," Philippe told Wine Spectator.