A Very Special Visit from Mr. Florent Fresse of Mouton Rothschild

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Today, our staff was treated to a special visit from Mr. Florent Fresse, the export manager for Chateau Mouton Rothschild. The excitement for this visit has been building for weeks, and the seminar that he put on for us did not disappoint. He brought with him two vintages of Mouton, as well as one Petit Mouton, a Chateau d'Armailhac, a Chateau Clerc Milon, and the rare white from Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Aile d'Argent.

One of the most interesting things we learned is that the original name of Chateau Mouton Rothschild was Mothon, an old Gascon word for small hill. The property sits at a little over 90 feet, which is virtually a mountain in Pauillac. The improved drainage that a hillside brings is highly prized for winemaking anywhere, as well as the better sun exposure, which is perfect at Mouton due to the Chateau’s southern exposition. This is what lets them get Cabernet Sauvignon, which is usually about 90% of the blend so perfectly ripe. They think that it was an English customer in the distant past that mistook Mothon for Mouton, and the rest is history. The fact that the Baron himself was an Aries helped it stick!

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We started the tasting, as is the custom for professionals in Bordeaux, with the reds. The 2016 Chateau d'Armailhac was a very high level to begin with, and I was very impressed by the streamlined cassis, great acidity, and all-around high quality of this Bordeaux. It is composed of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. It is located between Pontet-Canet and Mouton in the northern part of Pauillac. Florent compared the 2016 vintage to 1986 and thinks that it is the best d’Armailhac that they have ever made. It is quite young, and I hope to try it again on its 10th birthday!

Next was the 2016 Chateau Clerc-Milon, Pauillac which exuded classy, dark, concentrated fruit as well as charming leather and smooth tannin. The finish of this wine was very impressive, and it was expansive as well as long. This property faces the Gironde directly, and is bordered by Mouton and Lafite. One could not ask for a better address! Clerc-Milon is home to the biggest plot of Carménère in all of Bordeaux, an acre and a quarter parcel planted in 1947. The 2016 is composed of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Carménère. I think this is a great wine to buy for anyone who has children born in this year, as a bottle that I had of the 1990 recently was still completely fresh!

Le Petit Mouton Rothschild is Chateau Mouton Rothschilds second label, and the 2010 we tasted was a notable step up in concentration and power. The 207 acres of Mouton usually produce about 50% grand vin, 25% Petit Mouton, a small amount of their 3rd label with the rest of the wine sold as bulk. It is named after the family home on the property, with the Chateau proper being the production facility. This was big, tannic, brooding, dry Pauillac, with a big finish that promises to blossom in the future. It is composed of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Franc.

The 2009 Chateau Mouton Rothschild lived up to its billing as a super star of a super vintage, and was extremely expressive for a 10-year-old first growth. This is a chocolaty, full-blown Cabernet style with deep, dark fruit and vanilla aromas and flavors. This wine has lots of body and texture but does not in any way feel ponderous or fat. In fact, it finishes dry, bright, and long. It is composed of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12 % Merlot. It was an extraordinary treat.

For me, the highlight of the tasting was the 2005 Chateau Mouton Rothschild. I loved the pure cassis, subtle cola, and saddle leather aromas and flavors and was very impressed with the rich, full body, and silky texture. To have so much ripe Cabernet flavor and mouthfeel without heat or overweight notes is a unique experience. The wine was so aromatic and giving, yet completely dry and fresh. The finish expanded and went on forever—a truly top-notch experience! This wine is composed of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, and 1% Cabernet Franc. 

We finished out the tasting with the 2016 Mouton Rothschild "Aile d'Argent" Bordeaux Blanc, a white wine grown and made at Mouton from five small plots. This wine had very bold aromatics with honey, pineapple, and little feral Sauvignon as well. In the mouth, it was surprisingly light, easy to drink and very fresh. It sees 50% new oak, which I could smell, but not taste or feel in the mouth. It is composed of 46% Semillon, 43% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Sauvignon Gris, and 1% Muscadelle. The name, which translates as silver wing in English, comes from a fairy tale that the Baron used to tell the Baroness about a flying teapot. What a refreshing end to a great seminar and tasting!

-Gary Westby

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Gary Westby