by Paige Donner
Last summer, while attending Vinexpo in Bordeaux, I had the great good fortune to be issued a Press invitation to the Gala Dinner held at Mouton Rothschild in Pauillac, hosted by Madame Philippine de Rothschild.
The gala dinner that The Baroness (as her friends referred to her), Madame Philippine de Rothschild, was putting on was in honor of the first unveiling of their chateau’s exquisite new cellars and museum on the premises of the venerable domain of Mouton Rothschild.
It was extraordinary to see the liveliness, ever present, in such a courageous woman like The Baroness. She stood up on stage, alongside her son Julien and also the Mayor of Bordeaux, Alain Juppé, and spoke to the assembled guests of 250 people for a solid 20 minutes, unflagging. More than once she drew hearty chuckles from the crowd of some of the world’s most esteemed winemakers and winery owners. She was still every inch a glamorous actress, even at 80.
Though petite in stature, her courage was immense.
We all too often associate Mouton Rothschild and Bordeaux wines with tradition and venerability. And while I am not disputing its solid ranking in the history of wine, it is important to remember that the house has bucked tradition continuously since its founding.
Firstly with the near-sacrilegious innovation of bottling at the chateau a couple centuries ago. Then, under Philippine’s father’s tutelage, dedicating label design to outstanding contemporary artists of the day. And, finally, appointing a woman, his daughter no less, to lead the house into the next millennium.
In a world of French wine all too often overshadowed by a huge majority of men, Madame Phillippine de Rothschild, The Baroness, showed courage, fortitude, leadership and an enviable sixth sense for business acumen (Chile!) and innovation (Mouton Cadet!) during her day.
That’s a legacy that will not be forgotten.
God Bless The Baroness.
(More here about her life and legacy on the NY Times)