Mou­ton Roth­schild: the new gen­er­a­tion

Af­ter ear­lier ca­reers in other fields, Baron Philippe de Roth­schild’s three grand­chil­dren have taken up roles in the fam­ily busi­ness. Jane An­son dis­cov­ers how they plan to honour such a dis­tin­guished her­itage

Decanter - - CONTENTS - Jane An­son is a De­canter con­tribut­ing edi­tor, Bordeaux cor­re­spon­dent for De­canter.com and au­thor of the book Bordeaux Leg­ends

In a De­canter ex­clu­sive, Jane An­son talks to Baroness Philip­pine’s three chil­dren, who have now taken up the reins at the fam­ily busi­ness

LA GRANDE PiECE at Mou­ton Roth­schild, with its blue-an­dred tiled floor, 17th- and 18th-cen­tury chairs and art­works in­clud­ing Bran­cusi’s Bird in Space sculp­ture, looks al­most ex­actly as it did in a photo shoot for Vogue in 1963. it has been left more or less un­touched since Baron Philippe and his sec­ond wife, Baroness Pauline (de­scribed as a leg­endary tastemaker by Ar­chi­tec­tural Digest in 1977) care­fully se­lected the pieces. Much of the rest of their col­lec­tion is on dis­play down­stairs in the Mu­seum of Wine in Art, but these are the pri­vate quar­ters.

To­day, Baron Philippe’s grand­son Philippe Sereys de Roth­schild has cho­sen this room for our meet­ing, al­most two years to the day since we first dis­cussed his ap­point­ment as chair­man of the su­per­vi­sory board for the leg­endary Mou­ton Roth­schild fam­ily es­tates.

From that first meet­ing, on a beau­ti­fully sunny day in June 2015, i re­mem­ber a clear im­pres­sion form­ing of the se­ri­ous chal­lenge ahead in tak­ing over from his mother, Baroness Philip­pine de Roth­schild, who died less than a year ear­lier and left in her wake an in­deli­ble imprint on ev­ery part of her es­tate.

Two years on and Sereys de Roth­schild is warm, ex­pan­sive, re­laxed. He seems fully grown into his role as the head of the board, work­ing along­side his elder sis­ter, Camille Sereys de Roth­schild, and younger brother, Julien de Beau­mar­chais de Roth­schild.

Pro­foundly linked

This es­tate has been with the Roth­schilds since 1853 – one of only two clas­si­fied prop­er­ties in the Mé­doc to have re­mained in the hands of the same fam­ily since the 1855 rank­ing – and suc­ces­sive gen­er­a­tions have shaped not only their im­me­di­ate sur­round­ings but the wider his­tory of the re­gion. So per­haps it’s no sur­prise that when we sit down to lunch with all three, they don’t hes­i­tate when asked if they al­ways knew they would re­turn to the fam­ily busi­ness.

‘We al­ways knew how pro­foundly we are linked to­gether and to this place,’ is how Camille puts it.

They are also clear that their roles are very dif­fer­ent from that of managing direc­tor Philippe Dhal­luin and his team, who are in charge of day-to-day de­ci­sion-mak­ing – and, most im­por­tantly, wine­mak­ing – across what is a large in­ter­na­tional busi­ness. it spans the three Pauil­lac es­tates of Mou­ton, d’Ar­mail­hac and Clerc Milon, the Li­moux-based Do­maine de Baronar­ques, plus the branded Mou­ton Cadet wine – the big­gest-sell­ing in Bordeaux – and the in­ter­na­tional joint ven­tures Opus One and Al­ma­viva (see box, p44).

Strate­gic de­ci­sions

This year, 2017, is im­por­tant for the busi­ness. For a start it is the 20th an­niver­sary of Al­ma­viva’s launch in Chile, a pro­ject be­gun un­der Baroness Philip­pine as a joint ven­ture with Con­cha y Toro to cre­ate a primer or­den, or grand cru classé, es­tate in the Maipo Val­ley. it also marks the key re­launch of Mou­ton Cadet, the Bordeaux brand cre­ated by Baron Philippe in 1930. For the first time, through con­tracts with 453 Bordeaux wine-grow­ers, the fam­ily has 100% con­trol of the brand’s sourc­ing across 1,300ha of Bordeaux, over­seen by seven full-time wine­mak­ers within par­ent com­pany Baron Philippe de Roth­schild SA. Cap­i­tal­is­ing on this fo­cus on qual­ity, Mou­ton Cadet has taken on a fresh rel­e­vance through spon­sor­ship of the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val (where its rooftop bar over­look­ing the bay is a leg­endary draw), the Ry­der Cup in golf and, from 2017, the Amer­ica’s Cup in sail­ing.

Tak­ing strate­gic de­ci­sions of this sort, and look­ing at the over­all shape of Baron Philippe de Roth­schild SA and its fu­ture di­rec­tion, are quite clearly ar­eas where Philippe Sereys de Roth­schild feels at home.

‘i was lucky enough to have a bizarre ca­reer up to this point,’ he says cheer­fully, re­fer­ring to his pre­vi­ous jobs that have in­cluded heading up Générale des Eaux in italy, run­ning small en­gi­neer­ing and tech­nol­ogy start-ups, and work­ing in pri­vate equity. ‘i have had ex­tremely struc­tured, process-ori­ented roles and oth­ers that in­volved analysing how busi­nesses worked from the out­side, and oth­ers that needed cre­ativ­ity and a more hands-off ap­proach. The di­ver­sity helped me; i learned how to work across dif­fer­ent things and to value peo­ple for what they are. it has not been a straight-line ca­reer but has been hugely en­rich­ing.’

‘Our dif­fer­ent skills make it easy to work along­side each other – ev­ery­one has their own space’ Philippe Sereys de Roth­schild

‘We al­ways knew how pro­foundly we are linked to­gether and to this place’’ Camille Sereys de Roth­schild

This qual­ity has also no doubt helped to es­tab­lish a suc­cess­ful bal­ance of tasks be­tween the three sib­lings – not the eas­i­est of things in a fam­ily busi­ness. Camille Sereys de Roth­schild has re­turned to Mou­ton af­ter rais­ing seven chil­dren, fol­low­ing ear­lier work in art and auc­tion houses. You can tell as soon as you meet her that she shares with her mother, Baroness Philip­pine, an abil­ity to see the small de­tails needed to set a scene and to make peo­ple feel wel­come.

She is ‘open and forth­com­ing’ as her brother de­scribes her, and plays a key role in com­mu­ni­ca­tion, both in­ter­nally – tellingly, Philippe says that staff of­ten go to Camille with any is­sues that need re­solv­ing – and ex­ter­nally. She plays a key role in part­ner­ship pro­grammes for Mou­ton Cadet, host­ing din­ners and es­tab­lish­ing the hugely im­por­tant fam­ily con­nec­tion that el­e­vates the spon­sor­ship, em­pha­sises the his­tory that stretches back to Baron Philippe, and ben­e­fits both sides.

Fam­ily traits

Their brother Julien de Beau­mar­chais de Roth­schild, 10 years younger than Camille, has a dif­fer­ent set of skills again. An art his­tory grad­u­ate who part­nered in the es­tab­lish­ment of a fine art deal­er­ship in Lon­don, Julien has now taken on the man­tle – for­merly be­long­ing to his grand­fa­ther then his mother – of com­mis­sion­ing the artist to il­lus­trate the la­bel for Château Mou­ton Roth­schild. He is also re­spon­si­ble for the visual iden­tity of much of the es­tates’ com­mu­ni­ca­tions – a beau­ti­ful pop-up book pro­duced to cel­e­brate Al­ma­viva’s an­niver­sary, for ex­am­ple, and the la­bel de­sign for the launch of Château Clerc Milon’s new sec­ond wine, Pas­tourelle.

‘I never felt that the three of us work­ing to­gether would be dif­fi­cult,’ Philippe says, ‘be­cause we are all such dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties. We know each other ex­tremely well of course, and share clear val­ues, but our dif­fer­ent skills make it easy to work along­side each other. Ev­ery­one has their own space, even though there are no writ­ten rules.’

The idea of writ­ten rules has never been a strong suit of Mou­ton. This is, as

I re­mem­ber Philippe telling me the first time we met, ‘the side of the fam­ily that likes to do things dif­fer­ently’.

For­ma­tive mem­o­ries

Baron Philippe was the em­bod­i­ment of this – ar­riv­ing at Mou­ton in 1922 at 20 years of age and pretty much rewrit­ing all the rules that ex­isted for château own­ers at that time. He was the first of the fam­ily to spend much of his life liv­ing in Pauil­lac, and was a larger-thanlife fig­ure who evolved from be­ing a mo­tor rac­ing play­boy to be­ing one of the 20th cen­tury’s great his­tor­i­cal figures.

He was a mem­ber of the Free French forces who were part of the D-Day land­ings, an ac­com­plished trans­la­tor and play­wright, and a tire­less de­fender and pro­moter of his es­tate – not only did he in­tro­duce château bot­tling and the fa­mous wine la­bels, but he also spent 30 years lob­by­ing for its pro­mo­tion to first­growth sta­tus.

For his grand­chil­dren, their mem­o­ries of him are al­most en­tirely based around child­hood sum­mers spent in Pauil­lac.

‘My first mem­ory of Mou­ton is of walk­ing in the vines with my grand­fa­ther when I was nine or 10 years old,’ says Camille, ‘with his huge wooden stick in one hand, and a Peru­vian straw hat to guard against the sun.’

Baron Philippe taught both Camille and Philippe to drive in the vines here, and they re­mem­ber clearly that he be­came more in­ter­ested in them as they got older. ‘He wasn’t a big fan of ba­bies,’ says Philippe.

Julien was 17 when his grand­fa­ther died in 1988, and his mem­o­ries show a softer side of Baron Philippe, with child­hood games of ta­ble ten­nis played at Mou­ton, al­though he also re­mem­bers a stern dis­ap­proval of chil­dren be­ing al­lowed to eat sup­per with the adults.

Those sup­pers, how­ever, clearly made a big im­pres­sion. ‘Our grand­fa­ther didn’t nec­es­sar­ily make us taste wine,’ says Philippe. ‘But he al­ways com­mented on ev­ery wine he drank, and that stuck in our minds. He wasn’t a teacher, but you learned through watch­ing. To­day it is hard for me to say what is my first mem­ory of a great wine – each time you taste is such a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence, you get to go back to step one each time with the truly great vin­tages, and that is what fas­ci­nates me so.’

‘I re­mem­ber my mother show­ing Mou­ton 1961 to né­go­ciants and be­ing able to taste a small amount af­ter­wards,’ says Julien. ‘It was my first un­der­stand­ing of great wine. I dis­cov­ered that in the best wines al­co­hol ex­ists as a dis­creet com­pan­ion and sup­port of all the rest, never the en­gine but the sup­port.’

As­sured her­itage

The de­sire to honour this her­itage is clear in how they ap­proach their work to­day. Over the past two years, one of the ma­jor tasks they have ac­com­plished has been in es­tab­lish­ing the Fon­da­tion d’En­treprise Philip­pine de Roth­schild. This char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tion will be­gin by help­ing two lo­cal as­so­ci­a­tions cho­sen by the em­ploy­ees of the com­pany. One pre­serves agri­cul­tural land­scapes across Aquitaine, and the other sup­ports the restora­tion of the Tour de L’Hon­neur at Les­parre in the Mé­doc – the last ves­tiges of one of the an­cient châteaux of the Mé­doc

‘In wines the al­co­hol best is never the en­gine, but the sup­port’ Julien de Roth­schild de Beau­mar­chais

that dates back to the time of Eleanor of Aquitaine, when this area was a duchy of the English crown and the fu­ture first growths were in their in­fancy.

With 10 chil­dren be­tween them, the next Mou­ton gen­er­a­tion is as­sured. Camille’s el­dest daugh­ter Char­lotte, 25, is al­ready work­ing for the com­pany in Paris; but, as with their par­ents, there is no pres­sure on any of them to come on board. ‘I have told my chil­dren to do their own thing,’ says Philippe. ‘They should come to Mou­ton, en­joy form­ing mem­o­ries here as we did, but there is no obli­ga­tion to make it their ca­reer.’

At this point, Jean-Pierre de Beau­mar­chais, Julien’s father and Baroness Philip­pine’s sec­ond hus­band, in­ter­jects: ‘When I first met Philip­pine, that is ex­actly how it was for her. She was liv­ing in Paris and had no plans to work full-time at Mou­ton. She loved it, but did not know that it was to be her life.’

‘That was how I came to Mou­ton, too,’ says Philippe with a smile. Clearly, this place has a way of prov­ing peo­ple wrong.

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