I love when my friends want to share a special bottle of wine with me…who wouldn’t? A couple of weeks ago one of my best friends told me he had a bottle of 1970 Mouton Rothschild in his cellar that needed to be opened. I never bothered to ask why it “needed” to be opened but I’ll get to that.
I don’t get the opportunity to drink historic wine like this every day so when he told me he was going to pop the cork I headed over his house. Any 40 year old wine has a history associated with it and 1970 Mouton probably has more than your average wine.
Mouton Rothschild is, of course, one of the five first growths of Bordeaux. When this wine was produced, however, it was still legally classified as a second growth. In 1973 Mouton Rothschild was elevated to first growth status after decades of intense lobbying by Baron Philippe de Rothschild.
Baron Philippe de Rothschild was a brilliant marketer of his wines. He came up with the idea of having each years label designed by a famous artist. The 1970 label was designed by Marc Chagall.
Mostly forgotten was the fact that the 1970 Mouton Rothschild took second place in the historic 1976 Judgement of Paris Competition. Everyone just remembers that the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet narrowly defeated the 1970 Mouton.
I could go on and on about the history of Mouton, but why did this bottle “need” to be opened? When I arrived at my friends house the answer was obvious. The fill level in the bottle was lower than I had ever seen in a corked bottle of wine. While it is normal for the amount of space between the top of the wine and the bottom of the cork to increase over time, the level for this bottle was half way down the shoulder of the bottle. I was sure the wine was dead and gone but I figured I might be able to find some redeeming quality in the wine. Boy was I wrong!
The cork was intact and still tight. After carefully decanting the wine we were both blown away by the intoxicating aromatics. Cedar, leather, dried cranberry and scents I have a hard time describing soared from the glass. The wine still had pretty firm tannins and a finish that seemed to last for minutes.