Clever marketing by Chateau Mouton Rothschild should prove profitable for the chateau’s 2012 vintage this year (as well as some interesting back labels) . . . and it’s all thanks to Mouton’s emblem: The Ram.
Chinese New Year falls on Thursday February 19th this year and Chateau Mouton Rothschild in particular is expected to appeal to Asian wine connoisseurs as the ideal New Year gift. The reasons behind this are down to some forward thinking on Mouton’s part involving its latest label design and to the chateau’s emblem of the Ram. 2015 is the Year of the Ram (sometimes known as the Year of the Sheep or Goat) and New Year gifts involving the Ram coupled with certain lucky numbers are considered to be auspicious.
Make no mistake, this is big business.
Sotheby’s Auction House is holding Chateau Mouton Rothchild’s first ever ex-chateaux sale in Asia to celebrate the new lunar Year of the Ram on 30th January in Hong Kong. The vintages on offer will span over a century from 1870 to 2012 and are estimated at £2.5 million. The lots will be themed around Mouton and its owners (the Rothschilds) history with one lot containing labels illustrated with the ram; another lot containing vintages ending in ‘8’ (a Chinese lucky number), a lot containing those vintages whose labels have been designed by Chinese artists and a fourth lot containing the 2012 vintage with labels signed by the artist.
Lucky Years for Mouton
2000 – Mouton’s vintage for 2000 was an exception. The bottles were not labelled but were gold-enamelled with Mouton’s emblem, the Ram, in celebration of the millennium. The number zero is lucky in China as it represents completion, like the circle that is used to denote it, it is infinite. The vintage 2000 received 96+ points from wine critic Robert Parker and thanks to its high points and beautiful bottle depicting the golden ram this vintage should be one of the most sought after within China this year.
2008 – The number ‘8’ is regarded as the luckiest number in Chinese culture. Chinese artist Xu Lei’s design for the label is full of symbolism. It features a ram standing on a rock under a grapevine between two halves of the moon (the moon being an integral part of Chinese culture . . . the very calendar which the Chinese people have used for centuries is a lunar one!) The vintage received 94 points from wine critic Parker.
2009 – The number ‘9’ is traditionally associated with the Emperor of China; the Emperor’s robe was embroidered with 9 dragons and there were 9,999 rooms within the Forbidden City. The Chinese word for 9 is a homophone of the word for ‘long lasting’ and represents everlasting love – it was a custom between lovers to send 99, or 999 roses and today 9 is often used in weddings. Oddly enough, the 2009 vintage received 99 points from wine critic Parker. Is this a case of double your luck? The label was created by Anish Kapoor, who also designed our Orbit Tower, which stands above London’s Olympic Park.
2010 – The numbers for this year are made up of a pair of lucky zeros. 2010 was the Year of the Tiger which fell on 14th February, St Valentine’s Day. The 2010 label was designed by American artist Jeff Koons (a brilliant artist-provocateur often compared to Andy Warhol) and is rather saucy. The 2010 Mouton is definitely a tiger – it’s a proud, fierce wine. The vintage received 97+ points from wine critic Parker.
2012 - There is a Chinese saying: ‘good things come in pairs’ and the 2012 vintage appeals to the Chinese thanks to its ‘2s’. The number two in Chinese culture suggests harmony. The 2012 is the latest vintage to be bottled (more recent vintages are still in barrel). The label has been designed by Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo and depicts two rams, face to face, representing ‘the balance and harmony of a great wine, already present in nature, still set a challenge to be met by the work of human hands’. As 2015 is the Year of the Ram this vintage should be very popular in China. The 2012 vintage received 95 points from wine critic Parker.
The Ram and The Baron
Mouton’s adoption of the Ram as its emblem stems from the ‘Mouton’ part of its name; Mouton means ‘sheep’ in French (centuries ago flocks used to graze on the pasture around the estate).
The Ram was also the zodiac sign of Baron Philippe de Rothschild (1902 – 1988) who was born under the sign of Aries – which incidentally is my birth sign! .
The Baron is responsible for Mouton’s rise to stardom revolutionising winemaking in Bordeaux by pioneering the bottling of wines at his chateau (rather than selling in barrel), successfully campaigning to promote Mouton to Premier Cru (First Growth) status and for introducing Mouton’s amazing labels.
Every year since 1945, a great artist has created a special work for the Mouton Rothschild label. The names which have adorned the Mouton labels read like a Who’s Who of eminent 20th century artists: Chagall, Dali, Picasso, Warhol, Bacon, to name but a few. Each label is said to represent the personality of the particular vintage it was designed for and over the years Mouton has used its labels to appeal to various markets. Mouton’s emblem of the Ram mirrors the chateau’s creativity in branding – the Ram is considered to be the most artistic sign in the Chinese zodiac; and one of the most thoughtful.
Given the Chinese interest in symbolism and belief in luck, Mouton’s labels are an excellent selling point within the Asian market.
Mouton’s 2008 label was designed by Chinese Xu Lei, and as you might have guessed Mouton’s prices went up 20% over night on the back of the announcement in 2010. This is not the first time the chateau has used a bottle design that might attract the Chinese market. The 1996 label was designed by Gu Gan (an artist famous for a unique brand of calligraphic painting). However Asia hadn’t entered the market as a major buyer at that point in time so the “Chinese effect” didn’t push up prices.
Will we see Mouton’s prices escalate for the Year of the Ram? The Chinese bubble may have burst but Asian interest in buying has certainly stepped up this year already . . .
According to Wine-Searcher Mouton is France’s most sought after wine and earlier this month Liv-Ex reported that 13% of all trade was for Mouton Rothschild: ‘significant, perhaps, as we approach the Year of the Ram’.
Both Mouton’s 2009 and 2010 vintages are available from Bordeaux-Undiscovered’s fine wine merchant branch, Interest In Wine. The wines have first class provenance; being stored in bond, direct from chateau.