Like you, I drink a Mouton Rothschild almost every day. The others, only a Petit Mouton 😉 Why ? Because I am a label drinker of course But with this Premier Grand Cru Classé, this term is fully realized. This is the story of the Mouton Rothschild’s labels.
It’s closely the story of the Petit Prince, Baron version: “Draw me a Mouton Rothschild !”. It’s more or less by this phrase that Philippe de Rotschild had to ask to the French publicist Jean Carlu to illustrate his vintage 1924 ! Why ? First vintage bottled in the château. This label stays the symbol of Mouton until 1945, and then in 1994, becomes the one of Petit Mouton. By the way, why “Mouton” ? Nothing to do with the sheep (“mouton” = “sheep” in French), as says Philippe Margot in his work L’intégrale des étiquettes de Mouton Rothschild (available for consultation here): “Mouton comes from “mothon”, for a small clod (Note: in Gascon), each of its three crus locating on clods slightly high”.
1945 was a turning point in the history of the wine, and in the history of France as well. The Baron decides to call on a friend’s service, the painter Philippe Jullian to celebrate the Liberation. The label couldn’t be more explicit. And that it must have been an exception, became the rule: one artist for one vintage. So, for a decade, the Baron turns towards his friends, including Jean Cocteau, Marie Laurencin or a “figure of Montmartre”, André Dignimont.
Then, from the friendly label, it turns mythical: George Braque makes the cuvée 1955. The kid of the l’Estaque, behind the cubaque…sorry the cubism 😉 The reputation becomes international.
The list appears like a bottle museum: Dali in 1958, César in 1967, Miro in 1969, Chagall in 1970, Kandinsky in 1971, Picasso in 1973… Especially as in the 1970’s, the Baron wishes to chose some artists leaving abroad to support his international trade ambition. And the list is still impressive: Warhol in 1975, Bacon in 1990, Balthus in 1993 or Jeff Koons in 2010. Well, everything is all right in the best of the world…or almost.
Indeed, there are exceptions for each rule. Then, you won’t find any label in 1953. Centenary of the château oblige, a medallion of Nathaniel de Rothschild decorates the bottle (buying the property Brane Mouton in 1853 in Pauillac). Likewise in 2003 for the hundred fiftieth anniversary. But in 1973, the château pays tribute to the Queen Elisabeth, came to visit Mouton. As for 2000, it’s an engraving of the Augsbourg’s ram, emblem of the château. That’s all ? Yes…or nearly all, again. Three vintages are to put aside. With your specialist wise eye of Russian artist, you will have seen that I wrote “Kandinsky in 1971″, but he dies in 1944 !?! It’s a tribute of his daugther, who will offer to the Baron an unseen gouache of his father. Just like Paloma Picasso will offer a reproduction of the Bacchanals of his father, dead in 1973.
Last, there was a scandal with the likeable Balthasar. He gets himself talked about with his draw of the Mouton 1993: a nude. Oulala, scandal in the USA, a really puritan country The FBI and the CIA are on the case, we call back the Vietnam’s veterans to invade the château. So, between two interviews with his intern Lewinsky, Clinton is offended. Puritan, I told you The bottle is forbidden there and a second label is drawn…Here there are, to have an idea:
About the payment ? A liquid…with 2 vintages chosen by the artist. As for me, it will be a 1985, which is, so it seems, an exceptional vintage, almost of the century, mainly close to Lyon 😉