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ANNETTE MESSAGER ILLUSTRATES THE LABEL OF CHATEAU MOUTON ROTHSCHILD 2017

Written by Aksel Ritenis

ANNETTE MESSAGER ILLUSTRATES THE LABEL OF CHATEAU MOUTON ROTHSCHILD 2017

Every year since 1945, a famous artist has been given complete freedom to create an original artwork for the label of the vintage to be released.

The owners of Château Mouton Rothschild, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, Camille Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild, gave the commission for the label of the 2017 vintage to the French artist Annette Messager, born in 1943. Hailed throughout the world for her creative talents, she takes objects, shapes and words from everyday life to create a world of sometimes joyful, sometimes alarming poetry, marked by her feminist convictions.

Annette Messager’s work for Mouton is titled “Hallelujah”. In an approach that is both realistic and symbolic, she combines two substances, milk and wine, which the Bible often associates with each other, hymning the virtues of both.

 ANNETTE MESSAGER

Born in Berck in northern France in 1943, the French visual and graphic artist Annette Messager has held exhibitions in leading museums from Paris to London, Tokyo and New York, and won the most prestigious awards, including the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2005 and the Praemium Imperiale in Japan in 2016.

Reflecting her insatiable curiosity, her work ranges from drawings and three-dimensional assemblies to monumental installations.

Unafraid of either different forms or sensitive issues, Annette Messager started out by imagining falsely intimate collector’s albums under shifting identities, treating subjects such as childhood, marriage, men, proverbs, love, mushrooms, things that must be done and things that mustn’t, and everyday words, those you say out loud and those you keep to yourself.

Later, those words would take shape and come to life, as in fairy tales where naturalised animal creatures watch puppets swaying, where body parts come together to form a circle or triangle, and where chimeras dance on walls while textile shapes breathe or manes of hair take wing.

Bearing the imprint of her feminist convictions, her work asks questions of the world as it is, with its rules and its limits, while at the same time surpassing and subverting it, joyfully and iconoclastically. The prisms through which Annette Messager’s work shows life can evoke contrasting emotions, from bilious humour to rose-tinted optimism, black despair to the red mist of anger, for everything – love, play, bestiality, torture – is present in it.

For Mouton, Annette Messager starts from the most literal form of drawing: writing, which is also a call, an incantation, as shown here by the repetition in successive waves of the word “Hallelujah”. To it she joins, in a manner both realistic and symbolic, the celebration of two familiar substances, milk and wine, which the Bible often associates with each other, hymning the virtues of both.

“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 and CEO 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 Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, Camille 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 2017 VINTAGE

Climatic conditions

After a relatively mild winter with below average rainfall, the first major event in 2017 was a spring frost which hit the whole Bordeaux terroir on 27 April, though the Mouton vineyard was very fortunately spared. That was followed by a particularly lengthy drought, which did not truly end until December.

Spurred by above average temperatures, the vine growth cycle started slightly earlier than usual, at the end of March. Exceptional weather in April and May meant that flowering occurred 10 days earlier than the average for all varieties. After a very wet June, the summer was moderately sunny but dry, increasing a water deficit which started in 2016. As a result, the grapes remained small, with concentrated sugar and colour.

With an early growth cycle and a dry summer, the 2017 harvest was particularly early. At Château Mouton Rothschild, it lasted from 7 to 29 September. Running-off ended on 20 October and blending was completed in December.

The wines are rich, with a deep colour and an attractive tannic structure, full-bodied and pleasantly fresh even though 2017 is a solar vintage.

Less wine was made than in an average year because of the drought.

Harvest                            7 to 29 September

 Varietal mix                  90% Cabernet Sauvignon 9% Merlot 1% Petit Verdot

 Tasting notes

The wine has a deep, dark colour with a garnet hue.

The elegant and complex nose opens on wild berry aromas. With airing, notes of pepper, blackcurrant bud and dried flowers bring a satisfying sensation of harmony.

The attack is fresh, clear-cut and well-structured, leading into a dense and full-bodied mid‑palate on fresh fruit flavours. Refined and mature tannins coat the palate, leaving an enduring impression of smoothness.A packed and balanced finish confirms that this is a wine full of promise.

 

 

 

 

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Aksel Ritenis

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