ARTS and CULTURE FINE WINE

GERHARD RICHTER ILLUSTRATES THE LABEL OF CHATEAU MOUTON ROTHSCHILD 2015

Written by Aksel Ritenis

 

GERHARD RICHTER ILLUSTRATES THE LABEL OF CHATEAU MOUTON ROTHSCHILD 2015

 

 

 

Every year since 1945 a great artist has illustrated the label of Château Mouton Rothschild, bringing together the most famous names in contemporary art in a collection to which a new work is added each year. The label for the 2015 vintage, with its slightly altered look, bears the hallmark of the new generation that has succeeded Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, who passed away in 2014: Camille Sereys de Rothschild, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild. It is signed by Philippe Sereys de Rothschild on behalf of the three family owners.

The commission for the illustration of the 2015 vintage was given to the German artist Gerhard Richter, born in 1932, a remarkable inventor of pictorial forms and techniques. With a worldwide reputation, he bases his work on the dialectical relationship between painting and photography, representation and abstraction. His work for Mouton is the result of a process, which he calls “Flux”, that is both random and carefully prepared. The artist fixes moving colours in a photograph, taken at the ideal moment of their composition, just as a harmonious blend gives a great wine – a living creation – its balance and fullness.

GERHARD RICHTER

Born in 1932, Gerhard Richter graduated from the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts in 1951 and started his career painting murals in the then German Democratic Republic. Having discovered artistic freedom during a visit to the West, he defected in March 1961. After first moving to Düsseldorf, since 1983 he has been living and working in Cologne. He very soon gained international recognition for his work, at once unusual, complex and easily accessible. Exhibitions of his art have been held in the world’s most renowned galleries, including Tate Modern, the Pompidou Centre, MoMA in New York and the Beyeler Foundation in Basel, and three rooms of Dresden’s Albertinum Museum are devoted to his work. He has also received a number of prestigious awards, such as the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale and Japan’s Praemium Imperiale. Richter’s work is mainly structured around a dialectic between painting and photography, figurative art and abstraction. Famous for his “photo paintings” of portraits, still-lifes and landscapes, with their characteristic “blur”, he is also a master of abstract style, a virtuoso who plays with all the possibilities offered by photography.

“Constantly seeking renewal, since 2011 Richter has developed a technique of painting under glass, which he calls Flux, that is both random and carefully controlled. He spreads enamel paint on a plate of plexiglass on which he then presses a glass plate, generating astonishing compositions. When the process reaches completion, he finally fixes the plates one on top of the other. Before that, however, he photographs the still fluctuating colours when he considers their composition to be momentarily harmonious: that is how he created the label for Mouton.”

« MOUTON NE CHANGE »

“A Bordeaux First Growth, Château Mouton Rothschild comprises 84 hectares (207 acres) of vines at Pauillac in the Médoc, planted with the classic varieties of the region: Cabernet Sauvignon (80%), Merlot (16%), Cabernet Franc (3%) and Petit Verdot (1%). The estate benefits from exceptionally favourable natural conditions, in the quality of the soil, the position of its vines and their exposure to the sun. Combining a respect for tradition with the latest technology, it receives meticulous attention from grape to bottle from highly skilled winemakers and vinegrowers responsible for each parcel of the estate. The grapes are harvested by hand in small open crates, sorted on vibrating tables and vinified in oak vats with transparent staves, after which the wine is matured in new oak casks.”

Brought to the pinnacle by two exceptional people, Baron Philippe de Rothschild (1902-1988) then his daughter Baroness Philippine (1933-2014), Mouton Rothschild is also a place of art and beauty, famous for the spectacular vista of its Great Barrel Hall, the Museum of Wine in Art and its collection of precious objects associated with the vine and wine from two millennia, and the magnificent new vat house, inaugurated in 2013. Mouton Rothschild now belongs to Baroness Philippine’s three children, Camille Sereys de Rothschild, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the family company, Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA, which manages the Château, and Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild, Vice-Chairman. United in their commitment to their grandfather’s and mother’s work, all three are determined to perpetuate the celebrated First Growth’s motto, “Mouton ne change” (I, Mouton, do not change), even in the midst of transformation!

PAINTINGS FOR THE LABELS

Every year since 1945, the Château Mouton Rothschild label has been illustrated with an original artwork by a great contemporary painter. In 1924, to salute his first vintage bottled entirely at the château, Baron Philippe de Rothschild (1902-1988), father of Baroness Philippine (1933-2014), asked the famous poster designer Jean Carlu to create the Mouton label. Ahead of its time, it remained an isolated initiative. In 1945, this time to celebrate the return of peace, Baron Philippe decided to crown the label for the vintage with the “V” for Victory, drawn by the young painter Philippe Jullian. This exceptional circumstance marked the start of a tradition and, every year since 1946, a different artist has been invited to create an original artwork for the label. Initially, Baron Philippe chose painters from amongst his friends, such as Jean Hugo, Léonor Fini and Jean Cocteau. In 1955, Georges Braque agreed to illustrate the vintage; he was followed by the greatest artists of our time, including Dali, César, Miró, Chagall, Picasso, Warhol, Soulages, Bacon, Balthus, Tàpies and Jeff Koons, forming a fascinating collection to which a new work is added each year. Mouton’s owners, now Camille and Philippe Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild, have always been responsible for choosing the artists, respecting their artistic freedom, though many of them have been attracted by themes such as the vine, the pleasure of drinking or the ram, the Mouton emblem.

The artists receive no fee for their work but are given cases of Mouton Rothschild, including of course “their” vintage. In 1981, on Baroness Philippine’s initiative, the collection gave rise to a travelling exhibition, “Mouton Rothschild, Paintings for the Labels”, shown in many museums around the world. It is now on permanent display at Mouton in the superb space created for it by Baroness Philippine in 2013, between the new vat house and the famous Museum of Wine in Art.”

THE 2015 VINTAGE

Climatic conditions and harvest

Although 2015 was slightly warmer than average, it was above all very dry (706 mm of rain, compared with an annual average of 862 mm), especially between February and July, from budbreak to veraison. As a result the berries remained small, which explains why the yield was rather low even though we had hopes of a normal crop after flowering. Higher-than-average rainfall in August and September helped to prevent the ripening process from coming to a halt in a vineyard already stressed by the lack of water.

“Consequently the grapes matured at rather different rates from one parcel to another, according to the terroir, the grape variety and the age of the vines. In order to ensure that each variety and each parcel was picked at optimum maturity, the harvest period was the longest in living memory. It lasted 23 days between our three estates, from the first Merlots on 14 September to the last Cabernet Sauvignons on 6 October. The grapes were magnificent and fermentation took place quickly. The wines immediately showed plenty of colour and a complete array of very intense aromas ranging from red and black fruit to spice and incense. The tannins are generally very well-rounded, dense and seamlessly smooth. After blending, the wines still have the same aromatic intensity and complex, full-bodied structures which barrel-maturing should further enhance.”

Our 2015 vintage in Pauillac is very similar in its heft and opulence to the 2005 vintage.

Harvest:                14 September to 2 October 2015

Varietal mix:       82% Cabernet Sauvignon 16% Merlot 2% Cabernet Franc

Tasting notes:   “The wine has an attractive, deep and dark colour with a purple tint. The refined and elegant nose reveals fruity wild blackberry and bilberry aromas.Notes of toast, liquorice and blond tobacco then emerge to fill out a rich and complex range of aromas. The fresh, full-bodied and slightly saline attack shows great intensity, opening on smooth and creamy tannins which enfold a silky texture lifted by a touch of minerality. The impression on the palate is very full, rich in ripe fruit and peppery spice flavours. An exceptionally long finish concludes a remarkably balanced wine”

 

*Content sourced from Press Release prepared and disseminated  by Baron Phillipe de Rothschild

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Aksel Ritenis

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