‘Like arrows in the hands of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.’ As well as banking and mining and farming and pharmaceuticals and property and philanthropy and exploration and environmentalism, the Rothschilds have, of course, gone into wine – the auction-topping, holy-grail sort of wine that is: Bordeaux.
It began in 1853, when England’s Nathaniel de Rothschild purchased Château Brane Mouton, one of France’s most cherished estates, and promptly renamed it Château Mouton Rothschild. Fifteen years later, not to be outdone by his nephew, Baron James de Rothschild, of Germany, secured another of France’s grandest wineries, the neighbouring Château Lafite, which he rebranded as Château Lafite Rothschild.
Sitting side by side on the slopes of Pauillac, rivalry between the two houses – each still in the hands of a Rothschild descendant – has raged ever since. For much of the 20th century the estates were barely on speaking terms. No surprise, given that opposition to Mouton’s decades-long attempt to be recognised as a premier cru – or first growth – was spearheaded by Lafite.
We thought it appropriate then, given the time of year – feuding families, frosty get-togethers, microaggressions escalating into full-on dust-ups not uncommonly on account of some French plonk – to dedicate a good lashing of this festive-themed December issue to that ultimate of stocking-fillers – vintage clarets, that is – and the châteaux that produce them.
Starting on page 62, we interview the heads of three of Bordeaux’s five premier crus: Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, of Château Mouton Rothschild; Prince Robert of Luxembourg, of Château Haut-Brion; and Jean-Guillaume Prats, of Château Lafite Rothschild, on whose bottles you’ll find the Rothschild family motto (above) depicted as a five-arrowed emblem (one for each of Mayer Amschel Rothschild’s five financier sons).
Sticking with a theme of over-indulgence, and following the release of the latest Michelin Guide, we talk food trends and favourite restaurants with Hélène Darroze (p.28), Alain Ducasse (p.38) and Jason Atherton (p.48). Elsewhere, there are gift guides (p.82), festive fashion shoots (p88), partywear inspiration (p.84), ideas for New Year’s Eve (p.36) and suggestions for an enriching staycation (from p.118).
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas.