Renowned as the world’s most expensive wine, Château Mouton Rothschild, a Pauillac Premier Cru Classé, now owned by Baroness Philippine de Rothschild’s three children, is also the world’s only wine whose label, since 1945, has been illustrated for each vintage by a contemporary artist. For the 2018 millésime, the Chateau called on Chinese artist Xu Bing.
"When I discovered Xu Bing, I was seduced by this ‘inventor of signs’ endowed with great poetic power. I thought that our labels were also signs in their own way, with each work of art referring to a year: for us, the 1973 vintage is the 'Mouton Picasso', just as the 2018 vintage can be called the 'Mouton Xu Bing'," remarks Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild, Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors at Baron Philippe de Rothschild S.A.
The illustration reflects Xu Bing's work on the illusory splendor of appearances. While the calligraphy’s structure resembles Chinese characters, it is actually composed of Latin letters — a unique script that is the brainchild of the artist himself. "The 2018 vintage label reflects the meshing of cultures through the artist's ‘Square Word Calligraphy’, a script system the artist created in the 1990s that make up the two words "Mouton Rothschild". The characters are designed to reveal themselves to the attentive reader one after the other, just as the flavors of a great wine are gradually revealed," adds de Beaumarchais de Rothschild.
The technical production of the labels is also a well-kept secret; the company, for reasons of confidentiality and to protect itself from counterfeiting, divulges no information, be it on the materials used, the reproduction technique of the illustration itself, the label manufacturer or the name of the printer.
In addition to the label illustration for the 2018 vintage, the company has launched a notable packaging evolution: each wooden case (for three or six bottles or three magnums of Château Mouton Rothschild) is covered with a refined piece of textile embroidered with the family crest and meant to protect the bottles. Made of 100% recycled organic cotton, manufactured in France, the textile has been dubbed "Moutis", a contraction of Mouton and boutis, a textile of Provencal origin, stitched and sometimes embroidered, that is part of France’s intangible cultural heritage.
"Intended to replace the traditional papillote, the Moutis illustrates our desire to lavish the greatest care on the product as well as on its packaging and presentation in a pioneering and creative spirit," notes Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, CEO of Baron Philippe de Rothschild S.A.
To showcase the tradition of label illustration at the estate, Château Mouton Rothschild has an Art and the Label exhibition that brings together original works by artists such as Miró, Chagall, Braque, Picasso, Tàpies, Francis Bacon, Dali, Balthus, Jeff Koons, and even England’s Prince Charles. This unique art collection was chosen by Baron Philippe de Rothschild, then by Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and now by her youngest son, Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild.