"Premier je suis, second je fus, Mouton ne change."* So goes the proclamation of Baron Phillippe de Rothschild when his beloved Mouton was elevated from the Second Growth (2eme Cru) to First Growth (1er Cru) status in 1973 by the Bordeaux powers that be. The Baron's point being that Mouton had always been 1er Cru - and official sanction wasn't going to make any difference to him (or his wine).
Why am I mentioning this? Because last night I drank with my family a bottle of Mouton Rothschild 1998 which I had been given years before. The only remarkable thing about this is that it was the first time I had ever actually drunk a bottle of one of these celebrated top five Bordeaux wines. Tasted, yes, many times, but even the most able tasters will admit that sitting down and drinking with food and conversation is a whole different experience to the tutored tasting.
So what of the wine? I painstakingly decanted it an hour or two before, allowing myself a small taste to check the wine was ok. That first taste, I must say, was the best. Instantly a three dimensional wine leapt from the glass, with power, fruit and structured tannin, and long length. I allowed myself a smile of anticipation. When we sat down to enjoy it with roast ham, leeks and potatoes some time later, I must admit the nose was still powerful and impressive. Cassis, leather and cedar all swirling from the glass. The palate retained its three dimensional character, but as the wine opened up in the glass, I found it became disappointingly short. Perhaps it was the influence of the food, but ham and leeks are not powerful or difficult flavours for any wines, and I'd have expected this venerable first growth to have matched them if not in fact overpowered them.
A second glass repeated the experience, good aromas at first but quickly fading and a slight 'hole' in the palate after a few minutes. My father in law had opened a bottle of St Estephe from 2006 earlier in the evening, so I compared it to the '98. Only then did one appreciate the added complexity of the older wine. The 06, whilst perfectly drinkable, seemed curiously two dimensional in comparison. But still, in the glass, Mouton did change.
Ps Happy Christmas!
*"First I am, second I was, Mouton doesn't change."