Salut! / Honored Vintner

Meet the honored vintner for Naples Winter Wine Festival 2023

Château Mouton Rothschild's Philippe Sereys de Rothschild brings his family’s storied winemaking legacy to Naples.

BY January 19, 2023
(Photo Courtesy Mathieu Anglada)

The Bordeaux region of France produces some of the best wines in the world. Of the thousands of wineries in the region, five are called First Growth, a sought-after designation that separates them as the best of the best. One of those is Château Mouton Rothschild. 

The Honored Vintner at this year’s Naples Winter Wine Festival is Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, the chairman and CEO of Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA, which owns Château Mouton Rothschild. He’s the sixth generation of Rothschilds to helm the operation. “With my sister Camille and my brother Julien (co-owners of the château), we have both the good fortune and the duty to preserve and maintain all that the generations before us have built,” he says. 

A bottle of Château Mouton Rothschild is among the most coveted in the industry; depending on the year, it can go for hundreds or even thousands. A recent auction in Hong Kong of 66 bottles, spanning from 1945 to 2012, fetched $376,900.    

So, why is this wine so good? The vineyard’s success is essentially due to the land itself. The nearby Gironde Estuary nourishes the 207 acres of gravelly soil with a sand-and-clay mix only suited for growing wine grapes. Low hills mark the topography, allowing for good drainage and sunlight to nourish the vines. These conditions produce red wines, rich in tannin—mostly cabernet sauvignon but also cabernet franc, merlot and petit verdot. 

Winegrowing on this land dates back to the Ancient Romans, but its course to eminence in the industry started with the Rothschild family. Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild wanted to create a personal wine to gift guests and acquired the land at auction in 1853, when he gave the estate its current name. Two generations later, his great-grandson, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, elevated the estate when he took over in 1922; he was only 20 at the time and brought a wealth of industry-changing ideas. The baron insisted on bottling the wine onsite—a rare move at the time—which allowed the growers to control more of the manufacturing process. In 1945, he started commissioning artists, like Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol, to design labels. The practice continues today (under the current generation’s charge, Scottish-born artist Peter Doig created the artwork for the 2020 vintage).

Perhaps, most importantly, he established the winery as a Premier Cru, a.k.a. First Growth. The designation had been a source of controversy in the wine world. Four vineyards in 1855 were designated Premier Cru, ranked by price and prestige, as part of the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification. During his tenure, Philippe de Rothschild also famously partnered with Robert Mondavi in Napa Valley to create the highly collectible Opus One.

This year’s Honored Vintner is the sixth generation to lead the illustrious estate. (Photo Courtesy Mathieu Anglada)

Taking the helm from her father, Philippine de Rothschild further expanded the company, modernizing the estate’s production and launching Almaviva wine in partnership with Chile.

Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, Baronesse Philippine’s son, succeeded his mother as the supervisor overseeing the company in 2014. He also serves as president of the Philippine de Rothschild Corporate Foundation, which works to support arts and culture. Personally, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild has long supported education. “I am particularly attuned to the charitable goals of the Naples Winter Wine Festival, because I have invested not only money but also my time and energy in schools in France that specialize in distance learning,” he says. “I truly believe education is an issue of fundamental importance in today’s world.”

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