The Culture of Food and Drink

Home / Agriculture  / A Glimpse Into The Exclusive Chateau Mouton Rothschild

A Glimpse Into The Exclusive Chateau Mouton Rothschild

Mouton Rothschild’s new vinification cellar is reflected in a giant mirror. Credit: Carla Capalbo

Mouton Rothschild’s new vinification cellar is reflected in a giant mirror. Credit: Carla Capalbo

It was a party in high style, held at the legendary Château Mouton Rothschild. To attend it, over 600 guests — including 350 international wine journalists — descended on the usually sleepy village of Pauillac, in the heart of the Médoc wine region, north of Bordeaux. They were dressed to the nines.

The opening press dinner of Vinexpo, the biennial international wine fair in Bordeaux, is hosted by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux at a different First Growth château each time. It’s a grand affair. This year’s was a double celebration: In addition to marking the start of the trade fair, at which wines from all over the world are sampled and sold, the historic winery was also launching its new vinification cellar, or cuvier. Designed by architect Bernard Mazières and designer Richard Peduzzi, with the help of the château’s dynamic director, Philippe Dhalluin, the cellar was years in the making.

Everyone was curious to see the building unveiled. As they entered the winery’s courtyard, the guests were met with a spectacular trompe l’oeil: The new building first appeared as a reflection, on a vast mirror erected along one side of the courtyard. Its classical façade and soft golden stone fit well with the other buildings in the château’s complex.

“It’s breathtaking! Anything Château Mouton Rothschild does sets a standard for the global wine world,” one Asian wine writer exclaimed admiringly as he took photos of the virtual cellar on his iPad. Inside, the real cellar revealed a restrained design of wood and stainless steel in which the precious grapes can now be transformed more efficiently into wine. It incorporates the most up-to-date vinification tanks and temperature-controlled technologies. Mouton Rothschild is one of the world’s most sought-after wines, with bottles of the iconic red wine going for very high prices: A bottle of the 2010 costs upward of 1,100 euros. Currently, between 200,000 and 300,000 bottles of the top wine and 40,000 bottles of the second wine, Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild, are produced from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes grown in the estate’s perfectly manicured vineyards.

The Mouton Rothschild legacy

Mouton Rothschild has long been a bastion both of winemaking and culture. Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, who hosted the party, is a modern-day arts patron, as was her late father, Baron Philippe. In 1945, he began commissioning a different modern artist each year to design a label for the château’s top wine, Château Mouton Rothschild. The tradition continues to this day, with an extraordinary range of artists who have produced the graphics for the top part of the label that has included Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, Jeff Koons and Keith Haring. The labels are so beautiful they have become collectibles in their own right.


Picture 2 of 8

The barrique, or barrel cellar. Credit: Carla Capalbo

The new cellar provides a permanent space for a fascinating exhibition on the history of these labels, with a framed panel dedicated to each work that includes letters and sketches from the artists. This will be an extension to the château’s existing art collection, the Museum of Wine in Art. Here, sculptures, tapestries and paintings from many eras celebrate the importance of wine in each culture. Visits are possible to the château and its exhibitions, by appointment.

The sit-down dinner included a delicious cheese soufflé — quite a catering feat for 600 guests! — and some remarkable wines from the Union’s châteaux. The most spectacular was the 1975 Mouton Rothschild, with its colourful Andy Warhol label, which was served from magnificent Imperial-sized bottles (holding 6 liters each, or the equivalent of 8 standard bottles). The bottles were carried into the dining room to a trumpet fanfare. The wine’s complexity, elegance and freshness are characteristics of the best wines of Bordeaux. It was a fitting way to launch the fair and confirm to the guests who had arrived from all over the world that Bordeaux is still actively at the heart of great wine and of great culture.

Top photo: Mouton Rothschild’s new vinification cellar is reflected in a giant mirror. Credit: Carla Capalbo

Zester Daily contributor Carla Capalbo is an award-winning food, wine and travel writer who has been based in Italy for more than 20 years. Her book "Collio: Fine Wines and Foods From Italy's North-East" recently won the André Simon prize for best wine book, and her website is

  • Paul Levy 7·17·13

    Great piece, Carla. When I was an annual guest at Mouton in the late 80s and 90s, we were always given the 1975 Mouton. It was not ready for drinking then, and I thought to myself that it was so tough and tannic that it would probably never come around. I began (ungraciously) to suspect that it was always served because it was a vintage when there was a large yield of poor quality wine, and that Mouton preferred to use it up rather than sell it! But maybe I’m wrong…

  • Raphael 7·22·13

    These wines are offer the ultimate conundrum, don’t they? One can truly appreciate the thrill of such majestic wines only when obtaining them is prohibitively expensive – but then, if you keep them, you don’t enjoy them. If you consume and enjoy them, you don’t have them. If you’re so wealthy that the price is no object, it’s just a great taste but hardly a thrill.

    A great joke of life.

  • Sue Style 7·22·13

    What a fabulous experience, Carla, and thanks for sharing! Still trying to get my head around cheese soufflé for 600…did it hold up?!

  • David West (Mushroom Man) 7·23·13

    First Off I would like to say to Carla that your first book is the single most dog eared travel book we own and I believe we have been to nearly every single producer in it. It lead to a love affair with small, family run artisanal food producers that has shaped my life for over 15 years. We have built on the book over the years and have a wonderful group of lovely people we visit in Italy. From wine maker -olive oil producers in Montalcino to butchers in Pitigliano and many more. Some with shops the size of a closet.

    First growth wines are now quoted (price) on Bloomberg Wire and traded as a commodity. I will reserve judgment on that fact and simply pass it along.

  • David West (Mushroom Man) 7·26·13

    I am “the mushroom man” at the Hollywood and Santa Monica Farmers Markets and have been since the mid 1990’s. We are dropping Hollywood this year but will stay on in SM so if you are ever in the area stop by. Another Zester author (C. Brown) is a longtime customer.
    As to the NYT story there is more to it. There had been questions surrounding that place before Sandy hit. I believe lawsuits were already pending prior to Sandy.