Mouton Rothschild, Clerc Milon and d’Armailhac

June 2015

2005 Mouton RothschildBaron Philippe de Rothschild is the parent organisation for several wineries, including one of the great wines of Bordeaux – Chateau Mouton Rothschild in the appellation of Paulliac. Promoted to 1st growth in 1973, the wines have been consistently brilliant (vintage conditions permitting) for many decades.

The group also owns a pair of 5th growths in Paulliac. Chateau Clerc Milon is considered the better of the two, made in a more muscular style, whilst Chateau d’Armailhac is the more feminine (and less expensive), though still age-worthy.

D’Armailhac is a neighbouring vineyard to Mouton. Whilst the ranking of the winery is not linked to specific holdings, the operations of the two are kept separate, so the best estate fruit is used to make this wine. Clerc Milon is about a kilometre north of Mouton.

Thanks to Daniel Arnoldi (the Australian importer of these wines) and John Jens (Lamonts – Cottesloe), Erwan Le Brozec from Baron Philippe de Rothschild was in Perth recently to showcase several vintages of each of these wines over lunch. With the title of Vice Commercial Director, Erwan is the Head of Export Operations for the organisation. (Some people have a hard life!).

Along with the three Grand Cru wineries, we also had a pair of wines from Le Petit Mouton, the second wine of Mouton Rothschild. Given the pricing, these wines appear to be more highly rated than the 5th Growths.

To round the event off, we started and finished with wines from Chateau Coutet (Barsac)

In regards to the vintages, Daniel went to great trouble to select a variety of vintages going back to 1990, including the great vintages of 2000, 2005 and 2009.

Amazingly, all of the wines are available for sale, albeit in small quantities. While the prices are not cheap, the wines have come straight from the chateau in perfect condition. The prices quoted were the prices offered by Lamont’s on the day, but give you a ballpark idea of costs.

And the verdict? The wines were uniformly outstanding, accurately expressing the vintage conditions and the vineyard characters. The Clerc Milon in particular, impressed for the sheer quality of the wines. That said, the 2005 Mouton is one of the greatest wines that I have had the privilege to taste.

N.B. The 2014 indent is now being offered by select retailers. This looks like being another excellent year and prices are much reduced compared to other recent years. For example, one retailer has Chateau Margaux for $600 and Lafite for $750.

Admittedly, you will not get the wines for 2 -3 years, and it will be another 10+ years before they are ready to drink.

The Wines

Chateau d’Armailhac – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Petit Verdot – Paulliac – 2009. What a great way to start. Whilst the 2009 remained relatively closed and tight, the feminine, almost floral fruit was a highlight. The palate was structured and firm, but in no way austere. The fine tannins, supple oak and well-judged acidity come together on the finish, providing the backbone for a long life. Considered by some (e.g. Robert Parker) to be the best d’Armailhac ever. ($138).

Chateau d’Armailhac – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Petit Verdot – Paulliac – 2005. More overt power to the fruit here, but still with the trademark elegance and balance. The more muscular palate has fine, dusty (though still) firm tannins. A wine with excellent presence that would benefit from another 5+ years to open up. ($195).

Chateau d’Armailhac – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Paulliac – 2000. Seductive, rich, generous and complex, yet still with the trademark feminine fruit. On the palate, the fruit is quite delicate and the structure is elegant and refined. The finish is defined by the way the fine, silky tannins are integrated back into the fruit in a near seamless close. A lovely wine now, but will hold. ($232).

Chateau Clerc Milon – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Petit Verdot/Carmenere – Paulliac – 2009. The fruit on the nose is quite restrained, though the potential is clearly evident. The palate is where the quality is expressed. The dense and powerful fruit is the main focus initially, with the firm structure becoming evident on the close. The fine tannins and oak (40% new) are perceptible, but not intrusive. The finish is silky and remarkably supple, with seamless palate transition. With air, the fruit characters become more evident. A superb wine that needs time to show its best. ($171).

Chateau Clerc Milon – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Petit Verdot/Carmenere – Paulliac – 2000. Given the age, the fruit is surprisingly subdued initially. With air, this starts to shine, with delicate berry notes and hints of menthol and leathery complexity. Whilst the beautiful fruit became apparent in the glass, this is a wine that still needs a few years to reach its drinking window. Classic Bordeaux for the aficionados, but one that may be lost on the average drinker. ($255).

Chateau Clerc Milon – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc – Paulliac – 1996. This has a beautiful nose that is developed, rich and complex. The palate is mature, yet full of life. The mouthfeel is a highlight leading to a long, supple finish. An enchanting wine that is drinking perfectly. ($198).

Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc– Paulliac – 2009. Very tight and closed initially. This is a structured, powerful wine, though it retains a remarkable degree of elegance. The finish is supple, though the tannins and oak (100% new) prevent the fruit from opening up. A profound, masculine wine that needs years. ($495).

Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc– Paulliac – 2005. This is a very serious wine with great power and structure. There are the first signs of development (mocha/coffee notes), but the fruit is still youthful and full of vitality. The fruit density is a real step-up, yet the tannins remain very fine and the balance is exemplary. With air the fruit opens and builds, while the oak (75% new) fades into the background. A powerhouse! ($717).

Chateau Mouton Rothschild – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Paulliac – 2007. Given the vintage, this is a great effort. The nose is quite lovely, with a remarkable purity to the pretty fruit. Pristine red fruits abound on the palate, with berries and spice over fine textured oak. The finish is still closed, with the lighter fruit weight well matched to the structural components. Very strict fruit selection, combined with careful handling in the vineyard has produced a wine of great charm that will provide earlier drinking pleasure. ($795).

Chateau Mouton Rothschild – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Paulliac – 2005. The nose here is somewhat muted at first. The palate however, is nothing short of spectacular! Refined and tight, this is full of nervous energy. Power, intensity, depth and great length, this has it all. The finish is defined by a minerality that combines with the amazing tannins and oak leading to a seamless close. It is almost as if you can taste the soil in which the vines are grown. It is a privilege to have tasted this wine. ($1729).

Chateau Mouton Rothschild – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Paulliac – 1990. Whilst the power is still evident, this has evolved into a seductive and beautiful wine. Aromas of tobacco, spice and gentle herbal notes complement the fruit which still retains great purity. In the mouth, the fruit is represented by menthol and soft leathery tones, with the fruit weight building on the palate. Whilst this has developed and is drinking beautifully, it is still a powerhouse, with bright acidity combining with remarkably fine tannins to add life and vitality to the finish. A wine of great length that is a joy to drink today! ($1196).