Baron Philippe de Rothschild was many things – a member of the Rothschild banking dynasty, a race car driver, playwright, poet and most of all – one of the world’s most famous wine makers. The owner of Mouton Rothschild, the only château to successfully challenge the famous Bordeaux Classification of 1855 and see their ranking move from 2nd growth to 1st growth in 1973, Baron Philippe was tireless in his pursuit of the things he loved. As a winemaker, Baron Philippe was savvy and knew the value of diversification. Like most château, he maintained a number of labels at various price points to ensure that his wines penetrated the market effectively. He also, like others in his family diversified overseas – co-founding Almaviva (with Concha y Toro) in Chile and Opus One (with Robert Mondavi) in Napa Valley. Baron Philippe was truly a renaissance man, a polymath who thankfully devoted much of his considerable wealth, passion and skill to wine making.
The 2011 vintage in Bordeaux is largely being billed as “challenging.” After stunning success in 2009 and 2010, the 2011 vintage is a bit of a correction to the market. Many wine makers were able to navigate the tricky vintage and produce some very nice wine. Because the vintage lacks the hype and universal quality of the two prior vintages, wine drinkers are likely to find some real bargains. One will need to choose wisely, because there will also likely be a fair number of misses as well.
One exercise I complete in almost every vintage is to buy a wine that I call my “bellwether” wine – Mouton Cadet. Mouton Cadet, a member of the Baron Philippe empire of wine, is the avowed value wine of the portfolio and is made in sufficient quantity and at a generally high-enough quality level to provide insight into overall quality of a particular vintage. I have done this every year since the 1985 vintage – 28 years and the Mouton Cadet has been dead on target with overall vintage reports every single year. So what does this mean for 2011 – The Mouton Cadet is showing quite nicely with enough structure to make its presence known, but fruitiness that belies its European origins. It reminded me actually of several previous Mouton Cadet, especially the 1985 vintage, which taught me my first lesson about a wine’s “dumb phase.” The 2011 has that same “drink me now” character… of course I will ensure that a few bottles get lost, for the sake of science and discovery…
While I was buying the Mouton Cadet, I noticed a new Chilean-Baron Philippe de Rothschild joint-venture – Anderra, so I thought I would give it a try. I am pleasantly surprised. While a little on the simple side, the Anderra possesses enough individuality to make it interesting.
Both the Mouton Cadet and the Anderra carry an average retail price of $11.99 per bottle in the Boston area, which, after discount is quite attractive for an everyday, quaffing wine.
My tasting note:
2011 Mouton Cadet, Bordeaux
Minerally nose with black cherry, currants, tobacco leaf and cedar hints. Medium-bodied with moderate acidity and firm, but supple tannins – Good balance. Dark fruit core with roasted game, wet stone and chocolate notes – Nicely structured. Moderate length – smooth finish – very approachable. Drinking well now – not for aging. Great value!
2012 Anderra, Carmenere, Valle Central, Chile
Ripe, jammy nose with blackberry, briar patch and eucalyptus hints – seductive aromas. Medium-bodied with moderate acidity and firm tannins – Good balance. Dark fruit core with raspberry, red berry and vanilla notes. Moderate length – smooth with dried fruit on the finish. Drinking well now – not for aging. Great value!