The 2020 Mouton Rothschild is a striking wine and one that I regretted not purchasing en primeur as soon as it landed in my glass. Offering up complex aromas of minty cassis, pencil shavings, loamy soil, cigar wrapper, espresso roast and violets, it's medium to full-bodied, broad and layered, with terrific concentrated, beautifully refined tannins and a long, penetrating finish. Checking in at 12.8% alcohol, its incipient complexity, ineffable sense of completeness and exquisite balance mark it out as the purists' choice among the trio of 2018, 2019 and 2020. In this vintage, the lots that made it into the blend were largely confined to the core gravel terroirs that represent Mouton's heart, meaning that there's a little less to go around. This was the first vintage overseen by Mouton's new technical director, Jean-Emmanuel Danjoy, and he has begun with a flying start.
“The vintage went quite well—not as extreme as 2018,” said Jean-Emmanuel Danjoy, the new estates manager, formerly the winemaking director at Clerc Milon, now overseeing winemaking for Mouton Rothschild, Clerc Milon and d’Armailhac, following the retirement of Philippe Dhallhuin last year. “There was no excessive heat, no sunburn damage, no blockage on the vines. It was an extremely early vintage, but, because of the earlier budbreak, it was also a long growing season—180 days. Usually, it is around 178 days.” I asked Danjoy about the slightly lower alcohols this year, given the overall heat of the vintage. “I don’t know why—the sugars never went up toward the end. The vines appeared fine. The tannins were getting more and more polished. We also don’t have really high acidity.” As for the styles of the 2020’s, Danjoy commented, “We have cool wines from a hot vintage. There was no heat spell just before the harvest—no cause for jamminess.” Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, chairman and CEO of Baron Philippe de Rothschild, commented, “This vintage is freshest compared to the other two (2018 and 2019). And there is a great complexity of tannins. What’s happening in the barrels with the wines—there is a multilayered, complexity to the tannins. These wines handle the barrels—they are like an oxygen sink. Usually, it's the more structured vintages that behave like this. It’s incredible.” The grand vin at Mouton was something of an enigma for me during my tastings. It seemed to have more mid-palate density and layers than many other Pauillacs, and with a touch more tension too (from acid concentration as opposed to dilution). Then I remembered those deep, deep gravels on the Mouton plateau at the heart of the vineyard. While these free-draining gravels can force Mouton’s vines to really struggle in very dry, warmer vintages (such as 2018), no doubt they will have offered a distinct advantage during the period of heavy rains in mid-August and the rains toward the end of harvest. Chalk one up for terroir!
Drink Date:2030 - 2070