Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Label of 2010 Château Mouton-Rothschild Designed by Jeff Koons from New York City, Bordeaux

Pictures: Jeff Koons' 2010 Château Mouton Rothschild Label

Each year, the esteemed French wine house chooses a master artist to create a label. This year's offering, the 2010 vintage, features Jeff Koons, who is based in New York City.

Château Mouton Rothschild in Pauillac

The Château Mouton-Rothschild vineyard totals 84 hectares. In terms of red grapes, 80% is Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 8% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot. There is also Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle, for the estate's white wine.

The wine is fermented in oak vats (they are one of the last châteaux in the Médoc to use them) and then aged in new oak casks.

Pictures: Château Mouton-Rothschild in Pauillac

Wine Searcher Average Prices (in US$):

2011:   523
2010: 1095
2009: 1128
2005:   877
2000: 1573

Baron Philippe de Rothschild

The birth of Château Mouton-Rothschild took place in 1853, when Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild - from the English line of the Rothschild family - purchased the estate - which was called Château Brane-Mouton - and renamed it using his name. The estate was in English hands in the 15th century but returned to French hands after the 100 Years War.

It was under Baron Philippe de Rothschild - who was only 20 years old, when he gained control of the property - that winemaking and wineselling at Château Mouton-Rothschild – and in general in Bordeaux – changed drastically.

Picture: Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild (Source: New York Times)

The Baron was the first Bordeaux winemaker to insist on bottling all his wine at the estate. This new practice created a need for more storage at the property. In 1926, the Baron constructed the famous Grand Chai, the majestic 100-meter first year cellar, which has become a major attraction for visitors to Mouton.

The now famous series of labels designed by artists started in 1945.

In the 1930s, long before the idea of second wines had become standard practice, the Baron created a second wine for Mouton, Cadet de Mouton. It quickly became Mouton Cadet, first a blended wine, then a branded wine (again the first of its kind in Bordeaux) and is today the largest selling French branded wine in the world.

Finally, in 1973, Mouton was elevated to premier grand cru en 1855. The Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855 was largely based market prices. It was established by the negociants of Bordeaux. Despite the market prices for their wines equaling that of Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Mouton Rothschild was excluded from premier grand cru status, possibly because the estate was not in French ownership.

The Portfolio

Like Lafite Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild is now a mix of privately-owned chateaux, international joint ventures and commercial branded wines:

Château Mouton-Rothschild (grand vin)

Petit Mouton (second wine): 6,000 cases

Château d’Armailhac: In 1933, the Baron purchased a neighboring vineyard, Château Mouton d’Armailhacq. The property was renamed Château d’Armailhac in 1989 by his wife, the Baroness Philippine. Part of the reason for the purchase was, the estate came with a Bordeaux negociant firm which eventually became known as Baron Philippe de Rothschild S.A. 17,000 cases.

Château Clerc Milon: 13,000 cases

Mouton Cadet: Bordeaux’s oldest and largest branded wine, with 15 million bottles sold each year across 150 countries.

Opus One: In 1980, the Baron entered into a joint venture with Robert Mondavi to create Opus One Winery in Oakville, California, now co-owned with Constellation Brands.  25,000 cases.

Almaviva: In 1997, Château Mouton Rothschild teamed up with Concha y Toro of Chile to produce a quality Cabernet Sauvignon-based red wine in a new winery built in Chile's Maipo Valley. 10,000 cases.

Owner: Baronness Philippine - Married to French theater director and actor, Jacques Sereys in 1961 – now divorced. Three children, Camille, born in 1961, Philippe, born in 1963, and Julien, born in 1971. Her personal wealth is estimated at €190 million by Le Nouvel Economiste.

Picture: Baronness Philippine de Rothschild and Jeff Koons

Château Mouton-Rothschild in Pauillac and Mayor Amschel Rothschild in Frankfurt am Main

The roots of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, Chateau Lafite-Rothschild  – and the Rothschild empire in general – are in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Towards the end of the 18th century Mayer Amschel Rothschild, a money changer from Frankfurt am Main, born in 1744, had five sons and decided to install them in the five major European centers of the time.

* Amschel Mayer Rothschild (1773–1855): Frankfurt - died childless, passed to sons of Salomon and Calmann
* Salomon Mayer Rothschild (1774–1855): Vienna
* Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777–1836): London
* Calmann Mayer Rothschild (1788–1855): Naples
* Jakob (James) Mayer Rothschild (1792–1868): Paris

Picture: The House of the Rothschilds in Frankfurt am Main

The Rothschild brothers became one of the major forces in the far reaching changes that swept through Europe, while their father had not been allowed to purchase land outside of the Frankfurt am Main ghetto. During the 19th century, they were the bankers to monarchs and governments, bankers to Napoleon’s Europe and then in the industrial area the builders of the modern economy through their investment in railways.Baron Philippe, who died in 1988, belongs to the London branch of the large Rothschild family.

(German) Winemakers in the World: The German Roots of the Baron Philippe de Rothschild Empire

Labels Designed by Artists

The custom of having an artist design each year the label of the Mouton Rothschild wine goes back to the year 1924, when Chateau Mouton Rothschild was ready to release its first vintage bottled at the Chateau itself.

Until then, wineries sent their wine in casks to wine merchants in the city of Bordeaux, who then undertook the responsibility of stocking the casks for the two-year aging process, before bottling the wines. Although labels had been in use since the middle of the 19th century, they served merely to provide basic information about the wine contained in the bottle--or what, at any rate, was supposed to be in the bottle.

Rothschild commissioned for the occasion the popular poster designer Jean Carlu to design a label. Carlu's cubist-inspired label shocked the wine community--Philippe Rothschild was to scrap the label design only two years later--but nonetheless succeeded in calling worldwide attention to the new era of Rothschild wines. In the years leading up to the World War II, the Rothschild chateau continued to experiment with its wine labels.

France's capitulation to the Nazi invaders and the installation of the collaborative Vichy government nearly spelled disaster to the Rothschild wine business. The chateau itself was occupied by the Nazis and made a German headquarters, while the Vichy government placed operations of the vineyard under its agricultural department's control. Philippe Rothschild and his family were captured--Rothschild's wife was killed in a Nazi death camp--but Philippe Rothschild managed to escape, finally joining up to fight with the Free French army under General Charles de Gaulle.

Returning to his chateau after the war, Philippe Rothschild decided to allow his first post-war vintage to celebrate the Allied victory. Rothschild asked friend Philippe Julian to design a new label for the 1945 vintage. Based on Churchill's famed V-sign, the label sparked a new era for Mouton Rothschild.

Philippe Rothschild, who had already been among the pioneers in recognizing the marketing potential of a wine's label, now decided that the label for each year's vintage was to feature an original piece of artwork--commissioned from Rothschild's circle of friends, only some of whom were artists. Yet all received the same payment: five cases from that year's vintage, plus five cases chosen from the Rothschild cellars.

In 1955, the Rothschild label took on a still more serious role. That year's label featured a design from famed painted Georges Braque. From then on, the Rothschild labels were to become a showcase for the world's top contemporary artists, featuring, among others, drawing and paintings from Joan Miro, Salvador Dali, Henry Moore, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and later artists such as Keith Haring, Balthus, and others.

Jeff Koon’s Label for the 2010 Vintage

Jeff Koons has combined the classical 'House of the Venus Marina III', a fresco from ancient Roman Pompeii, with a silver line drawing depicting a sailing boat and a sun.

Dubbed the Willy Wonka of art, New York-based Koons has spent the past 30 years dividing opinion with his avant-garde scupltures.

Pictures: Jeff Koons and his Art

His 'tulips' - a large steel and chromium bouquet of multi-coloured tulips - which was sold for US$33,682,500 at Christie's New York in November 2012, made him the world's most expensive living artist.

In 1991, he married the Hungarian porn star and Italian politician La Cicciolina, a union which was dissolved shortly afterwards. His Made in Heaven series was a set of enormous canvasses, exhibited at Tate Modern, graphically depicting the couple consummating their marriage.

Robert Parker on 2010 Mouton Rothschild

"Only 49% of the production made it into the 2010 Mouton Rothschild, which has a strikingly beautiful label by Jeffrey Koons. This is a truly great wine, with a very high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon (94%) and the other 6% Merlot. At 13.9% natural alcohol, Mouton's director, Philippe Dhalluin, has clearly produced another 50- to 60-year wine that has a chance at perfection in about 15 years time, when I suspect this wine will be rounding into drinking condition. It is dense, rich and full-bodied, with the classic Mouton creme de cassis, forest floor, licorice and floral notes, but also some blueberry and hints of subtle espresso and mulberry. The wine has more minerality and precision than the rich, extravagantly opulent 2009, and while that may please some, others will have their patience tested as they wait and wait for this compelling Mouton Rothschild to hit full maturity." Score: 98+ Robert Parker, Wine Advocate (205), March 2013

"The 2010 Mouton possesses the highest level of Cabernet Sauvignon (94%) of any wine this estate has produced. Combined with 6% Merlot, the wine achieved 13.9% natural alcohol. Under director Philippe Dalhuin, the harvest was accomplished between September 28 and October 13, and only 49% of the crop made it into this powerful effort. Reminiscent of the 1986, it is a 50-60 year wine that is not meant for consumers looking for near-term gratification. This backward, tannic, full-bodied, exceptionally promising 2010 reveals enormous weight along with extravagant levels of precise, fresh boysenberry and creme de cassis fruit. The abundant minerality is due no doubt to the fresh acidity. In need of at least 15 years of cellaring, it will undoubtedly remain an infant at age 25 (as does the 1986)." Score: 97-100 Robert Parker, Wine Advocate (194), May 2011

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