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God Bless the Baroness

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, the larger-than-life dynamo who brilliantly carried on the legacy of her father, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, died in Paris at the end of August. She was 80 years old. While it was her father who elevated Mouton to first-growth status, Baroness Philippine has ensured that Mouton is worthy of its classification and has grown the company, known as La Baronnie, into an international force.

After the death of her father in 1988, Rothschild carried on his work: cementing the friendship with Robert Mondavi that would produce Opus One; forging links with Concha y Toro to produce Almaviva in Chile; supervising the extension of Mouton’s wine museum in Pauillac; building the new wine cellar at Mouton; creating the second wine, Le Petit Mouton and the white wine, Aile d’Argent; moving the original paintings for the labels to Mouton; overseeing the restoration of Château Clerc Milon; and building up Mouton Cadet into a major wine brand. Among her ongoing projects was the restoration of the Château d’Armailhac in the grounds of the Mouton park.

Born in Paris in 1933, Rothschild had an eventful life. When she was ten, her mother was deported to a concentration camp, never to return. She grew up devoted to her father and became an actress under her stage name, Philippine Pascal. Married first to actor and director Jacques Sereys, she had two children, Camille and Philippe. Her second marriage was to Jean-Pierre de Beaumarchais (a descendant of the playwright Pierre de Beaumarchais) with whom she had a second son, Julien. Philippe and Julien, who have been active in La Baronnie for the last few years and are known to many in the wine trade, will carry on Philippine’s legacy along with the close team that the Baroness assembled around her.

Mouton’s chatelaine will be remembered for her enthusiastic and imposing presence, her brightly colored flowing kaftans, her chunky, stylish gold jewelry, her booming, breathy voice and her passion for Mouton. My abiding memory is of the Baroness at the Fête de la Fleur in 2003 when she had erected an enormous transparent, glittering tent in the gardens of Mouton. More than one thousand guests from all corners of the globe were present and there on stage was Baroness Philippine with her friend, Placido Domingo. On the tables were magnums of 1982—beautiful and fresh with a heady, baroque taste of cedar, roasted coffee and, above all, lush black currants. We drank a toast to the wine, to the Baroness and to a living legacy that is Mouton. Her legacy will always be alive.

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