Bordeaux's Château Mouton-Rothschild makes a serious wine, but the newly unveiled label for the 2016 vintage shows it's not afraid to cut loose and get down. Following in the first-growth's famous annual tradition, the label features original artwork, and William Kentridge's creation, titled Triumphs of Bacchus, depicts a scene of full-on claret merriment, with a joyful procession of chalice-wielding, vine-crowned figures in silhouette.
“I am especially happy with the choice of William Kentridge for the label of Mouton 2016 and with the work he has offered us for the vintage," Mouton co-owner Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild told Unfiltered of the Johannesburg-born painter, sculptor, video artist and stage director, "not only because he is the first artist in the collection from the African continent but also because his talent is that of both a great graphic artist and a man of the theater, which in that respect corresponds to a passion that runs through the family from my great-grandfather Baron Henri, a playwright, to my mother Baroness Philippine, a well-known actress."
Kentridge drew his inspiration for the label from the paintings of great masters like Titian and Matisse. The artist has exhibited in venues ranging from the Venice Biennial to the MoMA in New York. Most recently, he conceived and directed the 2018 performance piece The Head and the Load, about Africans who served in Europe during World War I.
Art, of course, has long been central to the narrative at Mouton, owned by siblings de Beaumarchais de Rothschild, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild and Camille Sereys de Rothschild. Since 1945, the estate has commissioned a design by a celebrated artist to illustrate the label of the latest vintage ready for shipment; artists are paid in wine.
It's no surprise, then, that the Kentridge label isn't the only artistic endeavor for the estate this year: Mouton also recently announced an auction of 75 "Versailles Celebration" cases of five vintages each, to benefit restoration projects at the Palace of Versailles. For the boxed set, Mouton chose vintages with labels from five contemporary artists—Giuseppe Penone (2005), Bernar Venet (2007), Anish Kapoor (2009), Jeff Koons (2010) and Lee Ufan (2013)—who have also exhibited at the former royal residence and Unesco World Heritage Site.
"Interestingly enough, the artists are very international," Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, chairman and CEO of Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA, told Unfiltered. "A hundred percent of the profits go to Versailles. And we decided right in the beginning that we would do a limited series." The case for the 75 five-bottle sets is designed to evoke an intricate puzzle box.
Sotheby's will be auctioning the sets in Hong Kong, London and New York, starting on April 1, 2019, and successful bidders will also win a ticket to a Versailles celebration gala and a private tasting at Mouton. Meanwhile, based on reviews so far, the 2016s coming out in the coming months should put a spring in the step of all Bordeaux lovers.
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