Saturday, September 29, 2007

Dinner at Chateau Mouton Rothschild

We were collected by coach from the hotel and driven to the Chateau to arrive promptly at 9pm. As we were early, we had to sit and wait behind the chai (cellars) of Clerc-Milon, Mouton's sister estate (Classified 5th Growth Pauillac). Apparently when the invite says 9pm, you are required to turn up at 9pm, not 8:58 or 9:01, but 9:00pm on the nail. Sods law, as we sat there and waited it started to rain a bit, and as we pulled up to the gates of the Chateau people were there with umbrellas to escort us up to the door.
We were dining in what used to be the barns where the animals were quartered, until Baron Phillipe had it converted into a grand barrel cellar and his living quarters. Apparently he did not wish to live in the Chateau, so he lived out his life in the converted barn. We were shown into a magnificent room, small but decorated with art works recovered from a great French liner, and proudly displayed. An aperitif of Pol Roger was served with canapes of nik-naks and bugles (yes the crisps!!! how bizarre!!), before being called through to dinner in the dining room next to the grand chai.
The grand chai was a revelation of its time, built in the 1920 its massive room is completely unsupported by pillars, a masterpiece of engineering at the time. At its capacity it can accomodate over a thousand barrels of wine, and as we dined the barrel hall was virtually empty, the new barrels for the 2007 vintage only starting to arrive over the next month.
As we split off to our tables the meal was served. We started with a starter of Salmon in Aspic, with red pepper and peppercorns. This was paired with the white wine of Mouton Rothschild - Aile d'Argent. The predominantly semillon blend with its rich smokyness paired well with the picquant spicyness of the pepper and the big chunks of mi-cuit salmon hunkering in the aspic. I think the vintage was 2004, but it may have been 2005, whatever it was really fabulous. The rolled out the red wines then, starting with the Baron d'Arques, Mouton's Languedoc red, followed by the d'Armailhac 1995 which continues to impress me with its solid structure and richness of flavour. Its amazing that this is still only a fifth growth, as for me it puts many third growths to shame. Then it was time for the big boy. Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1989 en magnum. OMG it was good. Rich, earthy nose with dominant flavours of red fruit, tobacco, cedarwood humidor aromas all intertwinned. I must have sunk nearly half a magnum of this one, it was marvelous. This was all paired off with a cutlet of lamb, from a local farm, rolled in cepes and wrapped in crepinette, served with minted new peas (mushy!!) and caramelised baby onions with a rich red wine reduction. It was divine! Cheese was a selection of camembert and some mimolette, followed by dessert of fig fool, with the figs coming fresh from trees around the estate.
As coffee was served, Xavier de Eizaguire, Executive Director of Sales & Marketing gave a quick speech. He told us our yield for the day, how much fruit we had picked, and he seemed to be genuinely impressed with the quantity. We had been harvesting parcel 105, a 1.5 hectare plot of merlot noir grafted onto Vitis Riparia. The plot contained around 9,202 vines. We had harvested 950 cachets (grey plastic tubs) with an average weight of 12kg each, to provide a total yield of 11,400kg of fruit. He told us this was the equivalent of 875 cases of wine or 10,500 bottles. Now considering that Merlot constitutes around 12% of the blend, we can expect that the fruit we picked will be present in around 87,500 bottles of Mouton Rothschild or its second wine Le Petit Mouton. Not that bad really for a days graft. We were then all presented with certificates from the Chateau declaring us Vendageurs d'Honneur de Chateau Mouton Rothschild.

The evening drew to a close just after 1am and we all headed back to the hotel, with our certificates and a large poster depicting all the labels from 1945 to 2004. The poor Americans/Canadians had to leave at 5am to catch a flight home, but for the rest of us, we could look forward to a slight lie in before being collected again at 10am for a visit round the Chateau and a tasting of the 2006 barrel samples. For some of us thought, the hour long journey back to the hotel was time to catch forty winks.

Aw bless!!

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