For the first time, one book offers a comprehensive look at the world-renowned First Growth estates of Bordeaux;
Châteaux Haut-Brion, Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Margaux and Mouton Rothschild
This book tells not only their stories, but the story of the Bordeaux wine trade, and the personalities that shaped it, through these five chateaux that have been at its heart for over 500 years.
Their separate stories are woven together into one sweeping saga from their early days as Seigneuries owned by some of France’s most powerful families to the dramas of the French Revolution, the 1855 Paris Exhibition which saw them crowned as First Growths, and the determined efforts which saw Mouton Rothschild join them more than a century later.
Alongside methodical primary research are anecdotes and lively historical detail, enriched by lavish photographs taken by award-winning photographer Isabelle Rozenbaum exclusively for the book, and first-hand accounts from the chateaux owners, directors and staff, as well as those who work with them in Bordeaux, London, Hong Kong, the United States and further afield.
Academy-award winning director and owner of Napa’s Inglenook estate, Francis Ford Coppola, writes the foreword and gives an insight into what these five chateaux mean to those striving to make exceptional wines themselves.
288 pages. 50% illustrations and photographs, 50% text, printed in five-colour, hardback with dust jacket.
Retail cover price, France €45
Retail cover price, US $55
Retail cover price, UK 35GBP
Publication date October 25 2012. English/French editions.
US Publication date April 2013
Title: Bordeaux Legends: the 1855 First Growths Wines
French Title: Elixirs Premiers Crus Classes 1855
Publisher: Editions de la Martiniere/ Abrams New York
Photography: Isabelle Rozenbaum
Foreword: Francis Ford Coppola
Winner, OIV jury mention History and Literature category, OIV Awards 2013
Winner Best Wine Photography, Gourmand Book Awards 2013
Shortlisted, Best International Wine Book, Louis Roederer International Wine Writing Awards 2013
Jancis Robinson, 23 December 2012
After a short prologue outlining events surrounding the elevation of Château Mouton Rothschild to first growth status in 1973, and a foreword from Francis Ford Coppola, Jane Anson (Decanter’s Bordeaux correspondent) in her introduction captures the tone and the pace of life in Bordeaux during September as the arrival of the new vintage gets ever nearer.
Evoking this nervousness and anticipation she quickly assembles the blend: the seasonal rise in employment, the caravan of migrant pickers, the meteorologists, oenologists and consultants stoking the fires of expectation, and the caterers keen to feed the mouths that will pick what could be the perfect vintage. Despite the manic activity throughout Bordeaux and its environs, home to a multitude of vineyards whose employment supports much of local workforce, it is, as Anson acknowledges, the first growths who 'dominate the psychological landscape'.
Her introduction aside, Anson’s aim in this gorgeously produced tribute to Bordeaux’s wine aristocracy (stylishly and atmospherically photographed by Isabelle Rozenbaum) is to understand why what’s perfect about the five first growths has given them the power to dominate not only an entire wine region but also the world of fine wine beyond it. In an easy to follow style, she tells the story of Bordeaux from its time in short trousers to the flashy handmade suits who promote it and set the prices on the place today, beginning with a history of the various châteaux. Characters and innovators abound. For instance, Arnaud 111 de Pontac from Haut-Brion, who did some extraordinary work on pushing the limits of 17th century maceration and preservation and coming up with the idea of branding a château. Or Mouton’s Jean Louis de Nogaret de La Valette, Duc d’Eperon, who had the brainwave of asking the Dutch hydraulic engineer Jen Leeghwater to draw up plans to drain the marshes of the Médoc in the same century. The narrative also explores the importance of the Garonne, the links with Ireland, the impact of the 1789 revolution, the need for deep pockets after the French Revolution, and the role of politics before the year zero of 1855. From the period surrounding the 1855 classification that reshaped Bordeaux forever, Anson untangles the politics of being a first or second growth, the Mouton question and how it took nearly 120 years of pushing and shoving from Mouton’s owners to finally get its rightful place at the top table, much of it as a consequence of the Association of Four or Les Quatres Grands Noblesse Oblige’s attempts to rub Baron Philippe de Rothschild up the wrong way by wilfully flaunting the symbolism of the ‘magic quartet’ when de Rothschild was clearly of the opinion that that number should be a quintet. In the final chapters, the focus turns to the five’s unity, emphasising the effects of estate-bottling, the Club de Neuf – the realisation that Château d'Yquem and the right bank Cheval Blanc, Ausone and Petrus all share a common identity of greatness, research, soil mapping, en primeur pricing, and the future. If there is a mild criticism it is that the print is certainly on the faint side, but overall it’s a thoroughly entertaining history that, at times, reads like a novel and is without doubt one of the books of the year.
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