Château Mouton Rothschild is located in the commune of Pauillac, in the Medoc, 30 miles (50km) northwest of the city of Bordeaux. The grand vin is among the most highly rated and priced wines in the world, and is generally regarded as the most exuberant and powerful of all Bordeaux. It was famously added to the First Growths set out in the 1855 Classification in 1973.
The château started life as Brane-Mouton, and was among the best in Bordeaux through the 18th and early 19th Centuries, although there was a dip in quality and price in the 1840s. The Rothschild family bought (and renamed) the property in 1853 and quickly restored its reputation, but not in time for the 1855 Classification of Médoc wines, in which Mouton was only ranked a second growth wine. Lafite, Latour, Margaux and Haut-Brion attained Premier Cru Classé status.
Baron Philippe de Rothschild took control in 1922 and introduced château bottling in 1924, requiring the construction of the iconic barrel hall. At the end of World War II he also instigated the commissioning of a different artist each year to design the label. But his crowning achievement was the promotion of Mouton in 1973 to first growth status – the first change to the 1855 order.
The estate comprises 84 hectares (207 acres) of vineyards, mainly on gravel-based soils, and is situated in the northern part of the commune just south of Château Lafite Rothschild. Most of the vineyard is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon (80 percent), with 16 percent planted to Merlot as well as small plots of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The portion of each variety vinified into the grand vin depends on the vintage but will always be Cabernet Sauvignon dominant thanks to variety’s rich content of supple tannins.
The vineyard, typically for top Médoc estates, is densely planted and the average vine age is more than 40 years old. Harvest is done by hand, and the juice is fermented in oak vats in a gravity-fed vat room opened in 2012. After fermentation, the wine sees 18 months in new oak prior to bottling.
Mouton Rothschild produces up to 350,000 bottles of wine each vintage, including the second wine Le Petit Mouton, which was established in 1993. It is produced with grapes from selected younger vines, vinified in the same Mouton vats and aged in oak barrels. Around a hectare of white grapes was planted in the early 1980s to make the very rare Aile d’Argent Bordeaux Blanc.
The Château Mouton Rothschild vineyard, mostly situated on a hillock called the “Plateau de Mouton” which rises to 27m above sea-level, is planted on very deep gravelly soil with the varieties typical of the region: Cabernet Sauvignon (81%), Merlot (15%), Cabernet Franc (3%) and Petit Verdot (1%). These proportions are not reflected identically in the wine, because the blend varies according to the character of each vintage. However, Cabernet Sauvignon always predominates: it is Cabernet Sauvignon that gives Mouton its rich tannins, its wealth of aroma and flavour and its ageing capacity, while Merlot, an inseparable companion, brings suppleness, roundness and exceptional length. As with other top Médoc wines, the vineyard is densely planted – 10,000 vines per hectare – and the average age of the vines is around 44 years.