Very Pleasant Surprise With an Aged Pauillac

Today’s Story: Château Mouton Baronne Philippe (Château d’Armailhac)

Château Mouton Baronne Philippe, or Château d’Armailhac as it is known today, is a historic Fifth Growth Bordeaux estate located in Pauillac. Though the estate traces its roots to at least 1680 and brothers Dominique and Guilhem Armailhacq, the first solid record of vines on the property came later in 1750 and included 15 to 16 hectares of vineyards. By the end of the 1700s, the estate (called Mouton d’Armailhacq) benefited from the rapid growth of vineyards in the Médoc and grew to 52 hectares under vine, though the wines were not very highly regarded. The team spent the next several decades working tirelessly on improving the quality of the wines and were ultimately rewarded with higher prices and classification as a Fifth Growth in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. Later, in 1931, Baron Philippe de Rothschild became a minority owner in the estate and took full ownership in 1933. Mouton d’Armailhacq is tightly woven together with Château Mouton Rothschild, with the former holding all technical and agricultural equipment of the latter in their outbuildings. In 1956 the estate was renamed Mouton Baron Philippe, then Mouton Baronne Philippe, and finally Château d’Armailhac in 1989 when Baroness Philippine de Rothschild elected to restore the estate’s original name.

Today, Château d’Armailhac’s vineyards total 70 hectares in northern Pauillac and they are planted to roughly 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot. The estate’s vineyards are made up of the appellation’s famous deep, gravelly soil which is perfect for producing wines of character and elegance. Come harvest, the process begins when the same team of Château Mouton Rothschild deems the fruit ready and all picking is done completely by hand. Each variety and each parcel moves to the winery separately, the grapes are entirely destemmed, and young vine fruit is vinified separately from old vine fruit. The wines age in 25% new oak barrels, with some coming from the Grand Chai of Château Mouton Rothschild, and they are run off every three months until fining with egg whites. Each vintage is only bottled when the winemakers and cellar master deem the wine is ready, so there is no strict formula or timeline for barrel aging.

Today’s Wine: 1978 Château Mouton Baronne Philippe

Unknown blend; 11.5% ABV

The 1978 Château Mouton Baronne Philippe is translucent medium garnet in color with no significant signs of bricking yet. I drank this as a pop and pour, though the nose did develop in the glass to showcase aromas of worn leather, tobacco, pencil shavings, graphite, bell pepper, eucalyptus, forest floor, truffle, menthol, and cedar with a backdrop of redcurrant and dried cherry clinging on. The palate is about as complex as the nose but not as expressive, with notes of cherry, brambly strawberry, redcurrant, cigar box, sous bois, dried green herbs, dried gravel, cracked pepper, and earthy mushroom. This is holding up well with medium body, medium acidity, fully integrated medium (-) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $75. Provenance is absolutely key here, like most older wines, and I was very lucky to get this from a wine store that sourced from the estate itself in OWC. This wine was absolutely singing and the $75 I paid for it is certainly a great value.

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