The latest vintage from this Bordeaux first growth is always keenly awaited, not just for the precious wine contained in the cases, but also for the aesthetic delight of its label, designed by a different artist every year. This time around, the estate has called on Sino French colours to embellish its bottle, commissioning contemporary artist and sculptor Xu Bing for the prestigious task.
In 1945, as the Second World War finally came to an end, Château Mouton-Rothschild emblazoned its bottles with a V for victory, and it has continued to demonstrate its close rapport with the world of art ever since. This distinguished Bordeaux property, one of the region’s Premiers Crus Classés, bestows the creation of a label for each vintage on a carefully-picked artist; someone they feel can be inspired by the vintage to craft a piece that represents it.
It is Chinese culture that takes centre stage in the design of the 2018 label. The owners of the château, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, Camille Sereys de Rothschild, and Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild, chose to collaborate with Chinese artist and writer Xu Bing. Born in the mid 50s, Bing went on to complete a degree in printing at Pekin’s Central Academy of Fine Art, and he very quickly saw himself drawn to the craft of calligraphy. Choosing the visual art of letters as his main creative path, Bing’s work has been exhibited at globally-renowned institutions such as MOMA, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington D.C.
Working at the expressive intersection of language and visual art, Bing’s pieces bring out the complexities and depth of lettering in an almost playful way. At first glance, the label design resembles classic Chinese characters with their swooping brushstrokes and intricate lines. And yet, upon taking a closer look, it is revealed that these are in fact Latin letters spelling the name of the Château. There is a poetic richness to this ‘square-word calligraphy’; it pulls us in with its enchanting craftsmanship then makes us think twice.
There is much to be said for the Pauillac estate’s project, taking the opportunity each year to place its wine in a cross-cultural context that extends far, far beyond its vineyards. The 2018 illustration should delight collectors as much as the vintage itself. The fruit of an exceptional year has made a vintage that is deep in colour, dense in structure, and velvety on the palate. A promising year adorned with a label that, seemingly simple, invites first impressions to be reconsidered.
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