Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Clash of Cultures: The service's differences between Western and Chinese restaurants


Clash of Cultures:

The service's differences
between Western and Chinese restaurants
(and some personal experiences...)




Sino-Western Clash of Cultures by ©LeDomduVin 2019




Recently, I went to an upscale Chinese restaurant with my kids and the food was great, tasty and flavorful, but I must admit that the service was weird and unusual and left me intrigued...

Thinking of it, I'm not sure if it is a question of culture or a lack of knowledge?

I mean, is the service in a high-standing Chinese restaurant always like that? or is it a question that the staff (of this particular restaurant) does not have the "Savoir-faire" (the "know-how") or did not necessarily receive the proper training?

Or, is it my background as a seasoned Chef Sommelier and Restaurant Manager in upscale French and western restaurants that influenced me to mainly notice the flaws in the service provided to us during our dinner that night? (*)

I'm not sure and I can't decide. I guess it is probably a bit of both. You'll tell me after reading how was our dinner experience last night, to which I included some blunt opinions and personal experiences relating to this Sino-Western Clash of Cultures. I let you judge. (**)

Meanwhile at the restaurant...


We arrived at the restaurant on time and were greeted with open arms, which I appreciated, being a "white guy" (a "gweilo" as we say in Hong Kong, a Cantonese slang designating westerners) going into an upscale Chinese (Cantonese) restaurant, as sometimes we don't get any greeting at all (culture or education?).

That said, I had no greeting whatsoever in plenty of western restaurants too. So, I guess it just depends on the personality and mood of the first person you see on your way in (receptionists are not always the most agreeable persons among the restaurant staff, while they normally supposed to be, it is usually a dry, frowning, unsmiling face welcoming you in some places...). 

My children probably helped with the joyful greeting we received, by making an impression, being mixed kids with Afro-curly hair and tanned skin (their mum is Afro-American), which always seem to generate a smile on the face of most Hongkongese and more especially Chinese people we meet... also generating an uncontrollable need for them to touch their hair (it was a bit offensive for my kids when we first arrived in HK, as they are not used to be touched by strangers, but we have been living in HK for 8 years, so now, they don't mind it so much anymore... here again just a question of culture and curiosity).

The receptionist invited us to follow her to the restaurant main dining room where a waitress joined us and showed us our table (so far, so good).

We sat down, they put the towels on our laps, brought us some warm/humid towel on the side to be used to wipe our hands (the usages here in HK and China allow you to also wipe your face with it too if you want to). Poured us some warm water in our cups and asked us if we wanted also some tea or any other drinks, while another waitress gave us the menu (so far, so good).

Then things started to get a bit more complicated...

The person assigned to take our order started to make some suggestions from the "à la carte" menu, pretty much immediately after we were given the menus (***). A practice I'm not acquainted with, as usually the Maitre D' or the waiter/waitress gives you a breather to take, at least, a minute or two to look at the menu, prior giving suggestions. She was insisting on this and that, while I was telling her that I would like to have a look by myself first, then decide whether I will take her suggestions or something else in a moment. I was also asking her if she had a set menu, as it probably would be better for my kids and give them the opportunity to sample more things.

But, she ignored my requests and continued on her promotion of the "à la carte" dishes, without really letting me have a look first (nothing more annoying than an insisting and over-enthusiast upselling waiter/waitress while you haven't had the chance to look at the menu yet). A little annoyed and overwhelmed by the situation, (and as I didn't want to lose my cool in front of my kids), I said no to a few of her suggestions at first, trying to guide her into something more of our liking, then abdicated to a few of her suggestions, saying that we will order more food later if needed, while thinking that I would have prefered to take the set menu rather than "à la carte".

So, let's stop there for a minute to reflect on what just happened. This situation could have happened in a western restaurant too. I do not believe that it is necessarily a Hong Kongese or Chinese thing. But, there again, thinking of it, most Hong Kongese and/or Chinese I know have for habits to seat down and usually order pretty quickly (and HK restaurant's staff knows that). On the contrary, we, westerners, unless in a rush, usually prefer taking our time to look at the menu, order some drinks while deciding what to eat and appreciate the beginning of a dinner with colleagues, friends or family, which will surely last for a few long hours eating, drinking and conversing on various topics, redoing the world all over again ("refaire le monde" as we say in French) until satisfied.

Well, let's face it, we were not in a western restaurant, and I didn't want to make a big fuss about it, as all I wanted was to spend quality time with my kids, and I just took for granted that it was maybe this particular restaurant's way to take food orders... or maybe she is just zealous by nature (still a bit annoying and upselling in my opinion, but why not, after all - although in a less annoying and pushy way than that - I have been there myself, countless times, during my years in the restaurant business).

She had left only a couple of minutes ago, when I realized, looking at the menus more attentively this time, that they had a set menu she (probably) purposedly ignored or avoid to show me. Looking at it, I thought to myself that maybe it was not too late to change my mind and order the set menu as I wanted to, rather than going for her suggestions. The set menu offered more choices and thus more food to experience.

I raised my hand, a waitress came but she didn't speak English (and I do not speak either Cantonese or Mandarin, even after 8 years in HK, needless to say, that I've tried, but I'm useless at both, my pronunciations and tones being totally awkward and thus incomprehensible to the natives...). 

She called someone else. A waiter dressed all-in-black came (the Maitre D', I'm assuming). I asked him if it was still possible to change for the set menu instead. He went to check, then came back with a negative and surprising answer: "Sorry Sir, the food has already been prepared and its already on its way" (but we just placed the order a few minutes ago.... ?!?).

To my surprise (and dismay at the same time), although just ordered minutes ago, the first dish arrived in front of us. Not only they take your order rapidly, but they serve the food as fast. There again, nothing to do with western restaurants where one has to wait (or even languish sometimes) for his/her first dish to arrive on the table, carefully crafted by meticulous chefs, to whom we (customers) must abide by their rules and whatever time they think is needed to be satisfied by their "chef-d'oeuvre" (masterpiece), while eating the bread and butter at our disposal to prevent fainting with hunger.

No choice anymore, the kids and I had to dig in and discover the first one of the upsold dishes we didn't really choose ourselves. It was a transparent, gelatinous soup with white stuff floating in it, including two heads of baby green asparagus and an unknown brown "aliment" to add a dash of colour on top.

Yet, prior to sinking my spoon into it, I took a picture of the bowl and its content (always ready for an eventual post on Facebook and/or Instagram, you know what I mean... - sigh -) and also took a few pictures of my kids to mark this special moment together (we don't go to the restaurant very often, or very rarely should I say....).

The two waitresses (a waitress and a Chef-de-rang actually, clearly distinguishable by their outfits) left the bowls in front of us without announcing the name of the dish or saying a word before disappearing from our table. Which is something that I couldn't help to notice as I usually like to hear the waiter/waitress say the name of the dish and eventually describe what is in it prior starting to eat it (like in every normal restaurant). Moreover, rare are the customers remembering immediately the exact name of the ordered dishes seen on a menu minutes before, without giving the menus a second glance or ask the waiter. So, announcing the name of the dish while putting it on the table, should be a given in all restaurants around the world.  

However, here in Hong Kong (and even in China), in Chinese restaurants, I often experienced "the silence of the waiter/waitress" (could be a good title for a movie...) not even releasing a whisper of whatever he/she just put on the table, (not communicating on anything else either for that matter). 

And I can say with a certain assurance that it is a question of culture and traditions, following a rule widely applied to all businesses (not only restaurants) by most Chinese people (Asian in general in fact) in order to keep the face and do not disrupt intentionally or accidentally: 

"Only speak if only spoke to, especially with superiors, senior managements, important guests, VIP, customers and foreigners, otherwise, don't say a word, be respectful and be invisible". 

Strange habits, but rather pleasant and discreet compared to the haughty and unconcerned (sometimes even annoyed or frustrated) attitude some waiters/waitresses, Sommeliers and Maitre D' may have in some western restaurants. (And don't get me started on that I have thousands of stories to tell). 

Back to the dish, of course, needless to say, that in the confusion during the order taking, I totally blanked on the name of the dishes that were chosen for us, and therefore, prior tasting whatever was in the bowl in front of me (as I like to know what I'm eating) I called a waitress to ask her. She didn't speak English (could be annoying but it is the case in most Chinese restaurants here in HK and of course in China, after all, I'm the alien here, and moreover a permanent resident of Hong Kong, therefore I should at least know a few words to get by... but no, I'm useless as I said earlier above). She called the man-in-black, the Maitre D' (here again just an assumption as I had no clue who or what he was). 

Confused and somewhat unconfident, he said: " Sir, what can I do for you?" 

I replied: "Could you please tell me what is the dish and what's in it? " 

Bewildered, he said: "hmm... let me check... wait a moment..." 

It is at this moment that I realized (and thought very loudly in my head), that despite the question of culture and habits, the staff of this restaurant had probably never received any proper training whatsoever (in my opinion). Understandably (and as I worked in the industry for so long), I may accept that, (and although they should), a pass-boy or a waiter/waitress may not know what is the name of the dish or what is in it, but from a Maitre D' it is unacceptable, especially in an upscale restaurant where you supposedly pay for the food, the decor, the atmosphere, etc... but also and more importantly for the service (it is the old Head Sommelier and Restaurant manager talking here...). A Maitre D' like that would have never lasted in my team, I'm telling you (maybe a little harsh I know). I was about this close [...] to call Denis Courtiade 😊 (****).

He came back and said: "It is a braised winter melon soup with crab meat" and he disappeared as quick as he came without leaving me the time to say anything. I could have said anything that went through my mind at this moment (as I do so occasionally, my bluntness never served me well...), but as he was gone, thus I just mumbled a "thank you" to myself, started eating and continued the conversation with my kids. Despite the irritating difficulties to get the name of it, the dish was really good I must say.

As my daughter was only wearing a simple summer dress and started to feel cold (it is always cold in the restaurants in Hong Kong, actually, it is always cold, as summer as winter, everywhere in Hong Kong for that matter, whether you're in an office building, a mall, a supermarket, etc... the air conditioner is always running, full throttle, no matter what...). So I asked for a small blanket to put around her shoulders. The waitress obliged my request and presented the blanket to my daughter who declined it, for the time being, saying that she was ok for now ("the indecision of an 8 years old little girl" - sigh - this also could be a good movie title 😉). I told the waitress we will keep on the empty seat at the table just in case she needs it later.

My son told his sister to drink the Jasmine tea we were drinking to get warmer, but she replied by saying: "I don't like tea". Probably while I was too busy talking to my kids (my son facing me and my daughter to my right), the blanket we kept on the empty seat to my left had disappeared. Probably another waitress picked it up, and without asking us anything. These little details (plus all the ones cited above) were tickling the edge of my nerves. Not only the service was weird (for my taste and experience), but there was no communication whatsoever either coming from the restaurant brigade.

Things were happening around us without our knowledge or consent. Now, don't get me wrong, I have been working in the service industry long enough (28 years already) to know that the best service a restaurant can provide is usually the most discreet and most attentive to the customer's needs, where the service staff moves swiftly, efficiently, discreetly and in the less intrusive way possible while being respectful and courteous (and even funny in some circumstances), adapting to the every customer's needs (maybe I'm a bit old school, but that's at least how I learned it and that's how I like it done). But, that night, in this particular restaurant, the service lacked attentiveness and things were done in a manner too uncommunicative for my liking. 

Customer's respect can only be gained with attention, acknowledgement and consent (in my opinion). Unless the customer is a total douchebag, yet, even with this type of customers, the service staff has to be attentive, patient, polite, respectful and courteous enough not to aggravate the situation and create more complications, and disturbances for the other patrons around. 

That said, although it should happen everywhere, this type of service mainly occurs in high-standing restaurants where patrons have high expectations of an impeccable service inline with the prices they pay. Understandably, if you go to your local eatery (bar, brasserie, pub, etc..), you surely won't get the same kind of attention and service, but there again you are not paying the same price as in an upscale restaurant... (so no point to compare them), but it does not mean you won't receive a good service at your local eatery either.

Personally, I had the best dining experiences in small local restaurants in France, in the Basque country and more especially in Spain (*****). And surprisingly enough (or not so surprisingly in fact), I have been quite disappointed by quite a few highly recognized high-standing restaurants, probably because my expectations were too high, especially when paying the bill. Don't get wrong, I'm not saying that all Michelin and non-Michelin high standing restaurants are not worth trying if you have the chance and a wallet big enough to afford them, I'm just saying that in some of them if you set your expectations as high as the price you'll pay at the end, then you might end up disappointed. 

Just saying and I won't elaborate on that... but eating barely nothing of something unrecognizable and somewhat tasteless or weird served in a specifically designed plate has never been my thing... Fortunately, restauranteurs and chefs have returned, over the last 10 years, to a more substantial and nature-friendly cuisine preserving the essential and original aspects, colours, aromas and flavours of all the ingredients and elaborated with more local and seasonal products (nature-friendly as I was saying...). 

Some Chefs never derivated from that path, crafting an authentic cuisine with authentic products, and those are usually the best. I'm not saying that trends, evolution and progress are bad things, and I do not want to denigrate the other chefs either by saying that. However, it is true, and it is a fact, that the chefs who are constantly changing their methods (and thus derivating from the authentic path) in search for more innovative technics and more complicated dishes usually end up as fashion victims (like the fashionable Molecular Cuisine, a big thing back in the 2000s, which faltered and vanished nearly completely from the cuisine scene), despite a few rebels who converted to fusion/molecular/contemporary cuisine and are still trying to fit in an industry that has decided to go back to more authentic and classic with a twist type of cuisine.          


But let's not talk about the food no more and let's go back to the service with a recap of the service flaws of that night (so far):

- pushy and slightly zealous, upselling order taking, without necessarily hearing what I wanted (I'm sure she meant well and was just very excited to recommend whatever the Chef wanted to push that day... rings the bell?)

- super fast arrival of the first dish with no description of the name or the content of the dish

- a clueless Maitre D' who does not know the name of his dishes or the ingredients they contain (without asking a colleague)

- things disappearing without being consulted first or having us saying anything

- a service basically weird to a fault (but as previously mentioned it is maybe a question of culture)

- no communication whatsoever (but there again it could just be the language barrier)

That's quite a few already, unfortunately, it was not the end... (sigh)


The second dish arrived on the table, and no word on that either when it was put on the table, fortunately, it was obviously recognizable as a piece of slowly cooked beef with some kind of sweet barbecue sauce. A dish which caught my eyes when I had a quick glimpse at the "à la carte" menu. Well presented and tasty too. I did not call the Maitre D' this time, no point.

Then suddenly my daughter, who was drinking the hot water which tasted like rusted metallic pipes and chlorine (the reason why my son and I asked for some tea, as, at least, it masks and somewhat enhances the taste of bad tap water), changed her mind and asked if she could taste the tea. I oblige her request by pouring a little in her cup. And very proudly she said: "Yes, I was right, I don't like tea!" (8 years old... don't ask...). 

A waitress saw the low level in the cup, came and pour more tea in her cup while I told her that she didn't want any, she prefered to drink water, but she didn't stop and fill up the cup. I asked her for another cup to put the water, she just nodded and disappeared.... and never came back with the extra cup. So I pour my daughter's tea in my cup and refill mine with it. Immediately after, and without leaving me the chance to pour some water into my daughter's cup, another waitress passing by grabbed the teapot on the table and went to pour some tea for my daughter. I stopped her in extremis, explaining that she didn't want any with some hand gestures (it usually works better than words, especially when you do not speak the language), her, as well, nodded and disappeared.

You see, in Hong Kong and China, in most restaurants, a customer's cup should never be empty, it is part of the usages and the culture (I guess that it is the same with wine in western Europe, a glass of wine should never be empty 😊), and usually the Chinese restaurant staff tend to be over-zealous on that matter, and if not the staff, the Chinese host or colleagues you are eating with, will do it too. I guess it is courteous and polite to take care of filling the cup for others. Nothing abnormal with that when you have a bit of education and "savoir-vivre". Which is not always the case in some western restaurants where sometimes your glass of water and/or wine may have the time to dry up before seeing another drop of whatever it was filled with previously.

I went once, a few years ago, to a supposedly posh restaurant in Beaune (Burgundy) where the waiter, the Maitre D' and even the Sommelier passed by our table dozens of times without acknowledging us or even refilling our glass of water or even wine (which is worst), yet the Sommelier, was in a very important conversation with a table nearby for the past half an hour and couldn't possibly have time for our table, and for the other tables around us for that matter. We waited a very long time in between each course, service was somewhat inexistent and they barely noticed us on the way out. For the price we paid that day for the food we ate and the few bottles of wines we drank, it would have been better to go in a brasserie eating a simple "Steak Frites Bearnaise", instead of going to a supposedly Star Michelin Restaurant and come out with such a disappointing experience. (Sounds familiar?)








💢 Work in progress, to be continued and finished soon 💢




That's All Folks!!! for today, but stay tuned for more posts and stories like this one in the near future.

Santé! Cheers!

LeDomduVin (a.k.a. Dominique Noël)


And below, find the explanations for the parentheses in this post

(*) I need to admit that, when in a restaurant, while I usually try to adopt a laid-back attitude about it and keep my observations for myself, I usually can't help myself looking at the service and noticing the flaws, it is a bad habit and a professional default with me.

(**) Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, places or actual events is purely coincidental, ... ...or not, after all, as you may have experienced the same exact things in similar places with similar people... 😊 ... sounds familiar, isn't it?

(***) The menus came in both paper and digital, basically, we could read from a regular menu with hardcover and several pages inside, a separate printed page for the set menus and the iPad containing the digital form of the cited menus and therefore making the paper version useless, but I guess some people like to have both)

(****) For those of you who didn't get the joke, Denis Courtiade is a French Maitre D' (probably THE best Maitre D' in the world), director of the worldly renown restaurant "Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée", surely one of the most glorious 3 stars Michelin restaurants in Paris. He even has his own Wikipedia page, that says it all 😊 ... https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denis_Courtiade

(*****) I previously wrote a few posts where I talked about some of my favourite restaurants in Spain, if interested you can read them here and here. I even wrote about my experience at "El Bulli" here.

However, if I had to dress a list of the restaurants where I had the best experiences in my life so far, food and service-wise, the followings restaurants will definitely top this list:

France

Cordeillan Bages restaurant, Pauillac (Bordeaux, France) www.cordeillanbages.com

Le Saint-Julien restaurant, Saint-Julien (Bordeaux, France) www.le-saint-julien.fr

La Tupina, Bordeaux center (Bordeaux, France) www.latupina.com

Le Saint-James, Bouliac (Bordeaux, France) www.saintjames-bouliac.com

L'Hostellerie de Plaisance, Saint-Emilion (Bordeaux, France) www.hostellerie-plaisance.com

Le Jardin des Senses, Montpellier (Languedoc, France) www.jardindessens.com

Le Café des Baux, les Baux de Provence, (Provence, France) www.cafedesbaux.com

La Ferme aux Grives, Eugenie-les-Bains (Southwest of France) www.michelguerard.com


Spain

Arzak, San Sebatian, (Basque country, Spain) www.arzak.es

Kaia Kaipe, Getaria, (Basque country, Spain) especially for the wine list www.kaia-kaipe.com

Akelare, San Sebastian, (Basque country, Spain) www.akelarre.net

El Nazareno, Asador Nazareno or Salones Nazareno, Roa (Ribera del Duero, Spain) (the most incredible "Lechazo" slowly roasted baby lamb, I ever ate in my life) http://www.asadosnazareno.es

Irreductibles, Gratallops (Priorat, Spain) www.irreductibles.org

Restaurante Marqués de Riscal, Elciego (Rioja, Spain) www.restaurantemarquesderiscal.com

and least but not last:

El Bulli restaurant, Roses (Catalonia, Spain) www.elbulli.com (but that was before, and it was restaurant to at least try once in your lifetime, whether you like this type of food or not...)







Friday, July 26, 2019

Spiritual Pulled Up : A Strange Dream


Spiritual Pulled Up

A Strange Dream




Spiritual Pulled Up - A Strange Dream
by ©LeDomduVin 2019




I had a weird dream last night. Vivid and clear as if it was real. Bad or good omen, I couldn't say, but it felt strangely real and scary enough to wake me up shivering in fear as if it just happened. And made me wonder what could it mean…


I was outside, in a place I don't know, near a body of water. I couldn't tell if it was a sea or a lake, but it had no waves. It seemed that I was at a wedding, or some kind of celebration party, in a garden by a lake or some kind of a beach. The day was bright and blue. People were dressed in clear shades of white, beige and pink. For some reasons, my father was here and, as usual, I was having a strong discussion with him. A few other people sparsely placed around were curiously watching. 


We both seemed annoyed, arguing about the attitude of each other regarding some old issues of my past, badly resolved situations due to hasty decisions and wrong judgments both of us made at the time. Him accusing and pointing a straight finger at all my mistakes. Me desperately trying to make him see that in the context, back then, scarce were the solutions and opportunities to be able to do something about it. The argument seemed pointless and endless, as usual, exactly like in real life. 


When suddenly the scene took a dramatic turn, everything went into turmoil. The reception was flooded by slowly rising water, going up to our knees. The sunny weather, seconds ago, had turned grey and stormy. People seemed confused, almost panicking in dismay. And although standing just a few meters apart, the distance between us seemed to increase slightly as time slowed down respectively. The argument became more intense and incomprehensible. Nothing made any sense any more. 


It was at this moment that I felt like falling and being dragged underwater. It was dark, muddy and murky. The water had some kind of weird feel to it. It was heavy, more like pulp in a strange fluid rather than water, getting darker and murkier the deeper I sunk. It felt like a strange force was pulling me down underwater. An uncomfortable and uncontrollable fear echoed through every inch of my flesh and bones, as the emotions and dying sensations conflicting in my head seemed so real. My soul gently slipping out, leaving my body into limbo. Unable to breathe, I was drowning. 


My mouth was opened as if I was shouting in the water but no sound was coming out. My eyes were looking up for the fainting light, helplessly scrutinizing the darkness. My whole body trembled and heavy drops of sweat covered my forehead, neck and face. I was shaken by fear, emotions and sensations all at the same time. I couldn't move. Couldn't escape. Couldn't swim back up. The strange force pulling me down under felt dark and insensitive like I imagined death. There was no exit, no solution, just an irremediable fate. 


Although, not being a faithful practicant, having a rather convoluted relationship with the lord, and as darkness closed down on my inert and lifeless self, suffocating and semi-conscious, strangely enough, the first thing that came to my mind was: "Please God, be with me"... 


...the force, pulling me down under, unexpectedly vanished….. putting my descent to a rest… imminent death was unavoidable... time stood still and quiet… my body immobile in oblivion… dark became darker…. even silence sounded more silent... then I felt it… It came from below ... as indiscernible as the previous force, but brighter, sensitive and enveloping this time… as if two giant strong hands were supporting my back while pulling me up ... actually, more like, “carrying” me up rapidly to the surface…what may have lasted only a few seconds, seemed like an eternity to me… but I felt it… 


I felt something…. both spiritually and physically… both in my dream and in reality... it felt so real…. so present… a serene force… almost like a presence so unrealistically there… quasi perceptible… almost touchable… strong yet gentle… hopeful and reassuring… then I woke up as my head came out of the dark water…. feeling more intrigued than scared… left only with a feeling of the perception of something unexplainable and previously unfelt… 


It felt so strange and so real at the same time. It felt that it had a purpose. That it had responded to the internal distress which provoked my call to the divine. I was shivering, goosebumps all over, and the sweat had gone like it was never there. Everything was still dark but I was out of the water… out of my dream… laying down… thoughts and distinct moments of that rather peculiar dream racing through my head…. stills of this metaphorical vision imprinted in my brain... 


My eyes were still closed but I knew I was awake now. I had difficulty to open them and my mind was unsettled... as I felt that it communicated with me… not via words, but via sensations, emotions, feelings… sending waves of subliminal images and thoughts through my mind…. Which left me pondering... what was the meaning of this ephemeral yet powerful event? was it real? ...or was it just a dream? and what could it mean? was it a message? or a piece of advice in disguise? a way to tell me to be careful? to do something? or pay more attention to something? I don't know… I couldn't say… not sure… 


Yet, it felt so real to me… as the emotions and sensations were still going through my whole body, even if I was now fully awake… all my senses in alert as in fear it might come back…. like in shock after experiencing something deeply disconcerting... Yet, I felt like I had been rescued for a reason... like if it wasn't my time yet, it wasn't time for me to leave yet, something has to be done. Something, but what? about myself? my life? my work? my relationship with people in general? a parent? a friend? my father maybe?... what could it be... 


I had the sensation that this dream was not just a dream, it had a meaning, a purpose… about something anchored deep into my subconscious. Perhaps, something related to my past, acting in my present with consequences for my future. Something I need to change. Something I need to pull out and rescue from drowning deep inside myself. 


This strange dream left me thinking, as I wrote these lines shortly after waking up from it, that below my recurrent anxieties, fears and doubts, unable to have self-esteem and confidence, a strong potential has been asleep for years, waiting to be discovered and put to good use, and maybe it is reaching out to my subconscious for me to act on it. 


In any case, this dream left a mark somehow and an impression that something needs to be done or achieved for myself to be pulled out of the dark water I’m drowning in internally… 


Dominique Noel (a.k.a. LeDomduVin)


©LeDomduVin 26.07.2019



NB: I wrote this dream shortly after having it, to remember it and more especially to remember the strange experience of having such an impacting dream, both physically and emotionally. I have been having strange dreams like this one since as long as I can remember in my very young years. Some with the same depth but rarely (or very occasionally) with such intense impressions and sensations of being so real, that it felt it really happened. Most of my dreams with such intensity, emotions, sensations and feelings have always been about being underwater (usually in deep water) or being in the sky (like floating or even flying), both usually signs of anxiety, fears, doubts, overwhelming situations and/or need of escaping (being released from) a situation or a person. By all means, I'm no expert, but it does make sense to me.         


#lesrevesadom #leshistoiresadom #dream #stories #strangedream #ledomduvin @ledomduvin

Monday, June 17, 2019

Burgundy AOC Simplified


Burgundy AOC Simplified




Burgundy AOC Simplified Pyramid by ©LeDomduVin 2019 



Recently, during a discussion about wine with a few wine amateurs, while sipping rosé outside under bright sunshine (a rare thing in Hong Kong), one of them told me: "I love Pinot Noir, but they don't make Pinot Noir in France..., do they?

I was surprised, and it almost broke my heart to hear that, but I didn't judge, I kept my cool and asked her a simple question: "Did you ever drink red wine from Burgundy?"

"Yes," she said, and added, "I like them very much".  

"Well, the red wines from Burgundy are made with Pinot Noir, that's surely why you like them" I answered

"...but Pinot Noir is not written on the label, that's why I never realized they were made with Pinot Noir," she replied. 

And it was at this somewhat "peculiar" moment, that I realized that despite all the possible ways of learning about wine (wine schools, tastings, classes, books, videos, webinars, and other wine-related posts and articles in magazines, news, reportages, websites, social media pages, etc, etc...) ...widely available in most major cities around the world and online, they are still tonnes of people out there that have difficulties to read and understand French wine's labels (and don't get me started on the German wine labels...), and more especially to know which grape varieties some wines have been made with... and that it is not "peculiar" at all, but rather quite common, and at the end of the day perfectly understandable.... (even me, with my 28 years career in the wine business/industry, I have some difficulties to read some labels sometimes...)    

You see, back 20-25 years ago, the French were very dry and sarcastic about the fact that most new world  wines stated the grape variety on the label (e.g. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc...) for easier recognition of the type of wine, and, (to a certain extent for some and/or more especially for others), better recognition of the taste of the wine too. That way consumers with lesser knowledge could easily recognize and buy their wine, especially in supermarkets where (until recently and only occasionally, unfortunately) no wine professionals are here to help and guide you, without having you browsing the wine shelves for hours, scratching your head in dismay of the number of unrecognizable labels populating seemingly endless wine aisles.       



VINO, VIDI, VICI - Bottles on Supermarket's Shelves by ©LeDomduVin 2019



And, although I admit that in regions where various grape varieties are blended together, it would be difficult to do so (e.g. Bordeaux, Rhone Valley and Languedoc-Roussillon), in other regions where only one grape variety goes into the wine (e.g. Chardonnay or Pinot Noir respectively for White and Red Burgundy wines), it could have been a good idea.

Even if not on the front label, at least on the back label (which is now more often the case than it used to be back 20 years ago). Like in Alsace, for example, where varieties such as Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Muscat have always been stated on the bottle. So, what prevents the french from doing it if it could help the consumers?

Well, let me tell you a little about the French in an "Aparté"... (a subject I know rather well being one myself).



**********************

Aparté about the French


You have to realize that "The French", especially in regions such as Bordeaux and Burgundy, are traditionalists and quite chauvinistic by nature, often reluctant to make changes to secular traditions or even to slightly change their ways to adapt to the rest of the world.

Immutable traditions passed on from one generation to the next for the past few centuries oblige them to continue to respect certain rules and protocols inherited from their elders, thus making changes in their everyday life and routine a difficult task. More especially when it comes to their local products, including wines, cheeses, and local, traditional recipes. 

French products in general, wine and food included, are all about traditions, knowledge, skill, craftsmanship, regional artisanal cultures, and usually the fruit of a life-long career of people who have put their heart, time and passion to craft distinctive products proud of their regions of origin and the country they come from, pride for the "Made in France".

Thus, whether you agree or not, you can only (and understandably) respect the French's protective attitude and conservative approach about making any changes, as they are renown for the quality and durability of their products and want to keep them as they are. Their restrictive "Appellation of Origins" system (AOC = Appellation d'Origine Controlée / AOP = "Appellation d'Origine Controlée"), and several other specifically and typically French quality labels, are an intangible proof of it.

Therefore, making even the slight changes in France often command time, patience and long deliberations prior to a final decision can be made. More especially knowing that the French take their work-life balance very seriously (35h working law, etc...) and habitually ate being pushed or rushed about doing something unplanned. Last-minute decisions are not a thing in France, everything has to be planned and long in advance not to interfere or lengthen the time spent at work and definitely not to compromise or shorten their evenings, weekends and vacations time.   

The French dislike indecision, preferring the people who know what they want and can make reflective decisions rather than act on hasty decisions. That said, they also can make, and take quick decisions, and even help when needed too, as long as, (evidently), it is not right before lunch or dinner, or worst, prior to the summer vacations (needless to say that nothing gets done in France between the end of June and early September).     

You have to understand that France, despite all of its talents and prowess in technologies, medicine, architecture, design, fashion, and luxury goods in general, (and in many other sectors too), has remained an old-fashion country with a very agricultural background, unavoidably coming with the rural, backward, narrow-minded and conservative attitude most French are notorious for.

The usual french stereotype is often characterized as a smiling Frenchie with a "beret" on his head, a cigarette in his mouth, bearing a mustache or a 3 days-old beard, wearing a Britany striped t-shirt and pants too short to cover his ankles, and carrying a "baguette" and a "saucisson" under his arm, a bottle of wine in one hand, and holding a bike with the other hand... and the fact is that I can't neither deny or ignore this stereotype as it is simply true... how many times did I see a French boasting such an allure?...   

Funny to also think about the "cliché" of the French being charming, laid back, smiley, with a certain insouciance, "laissez-faire", "laissez-aller" and "joie-de-vivre", even being by definition sexy and fashionable for some (to some extent), when most likely, while visiting France, you'll find them usually rather rude, pessimistic, grumpy, long-faced, complaining or making a fuss about something, and being opinionated and/or know-it-all about anything and everything, and most often pompous and snob in many ways. 




"Ask the waiter what the French words mean"
An illustration by A.B. Frost - 1894 (*)



Amongst other things, for example, when, in a restaurant, a hotel or even a boutique retail store in France (especially in Paris), who never experienced the contempt look of a posh Maître D', a concierge or a luxury goods retailer, raising one condescending eyebrow and politely disdaining you with an unfriendly-dry "Monsieur?" or "Madame?", simultaneously simulating some form of respect for you while questioning your right to exist at the same time. Sounds familiar, isn't it?

Yes, the French can be unpleasant, up-their-nose, condescending, posh, arrogant, mannered and unpolite bourgeois (a behaviour they refer to as being sophisticated), or at the opposite, rustic, rough, uneducated, grumbling, antipathic, unmannered and still unpolite peasants (totally unsophisticated), or anything in between, as well as being annoyed and annoying, frustrated and frustrating, grumpy and unfriendly, dry, sarcastic, proud-to-a-fault, abusing the use of 2nd-degree jokes and metaphors sometimes difficult to understand, and, etc... etc...

This list is non-exhaustive, and I could definitely babble for a much longer while about the French and their annoying behaviors and habits... (sigh)... but the above is enough for you to get the idea (and for me to think it and write it out loud), and, at the end of the day, even if I could complement this list with more diminishing adjectives, I should stop there and shouldn't be all negative about the French, after all, being one myself...

So, yes, the French are all the above, yes... but,... in their own ways, they can also be charming, sophisticated, refined, elegant, cultivated, well-dressed and well-mannered, with a taste for luxury and lust, and love for culture and traditions, and history, as well as a way of getting into recurring complicated adventurous and sexually-oriented stories, with an irresistible attraction for femme-fatales and charismatic men, mingled with this "je-ne-sais-quoi" of confident demeanor and innate nonchalance, that almost make them cool and sexy.

Needless to also mention their taste for interior design, architecture and decor, their attention to details in everything they craft, and most importantly their unsurpassed "savoir-faire", traditions and mastery in the Art of Culinary, Hospitality and Service ("l'Art de la table et du service"), "le bien boire et le bien manger" et "surtout le bien recevoir", anchored in their life-style and countlessly copied yet never equaled all around the world.

And let's not forget their somewhat annoying and often excessive manners and protocols, more specifically their well-educated table manners, which often make us love them even more, especially when having a passionately-opinionated endless conversation, while sipping the "apéro", prior sitting around a well-dressed table where an array of good food is usually paired with carefully selected wines, the way only the French hold the secret of. Surely some of the reasons why the world envies the French way of living, drinking, eating, and kissing too.

The world always had, and will always have, an intricate "love-and-hate" relationship with the French, and I don't think anything will change with time...    and maybe that's for the best!

Vive La France!         


**********************


But enough of this aparté about the French, as once again I'm derivating from the main subject. So let's go back to Burgundy and Pinot Noir, should we?  Where was I? Ah, yes... the difficulties with the labels and why Pinot Noir isn't mentioned on the label... a vast subject that is.... (sigh)





And 25 years later, I'm realizing that the topic is still of actuality, like some people, even if somewhat knowledgeable and more than occasional drinkers, still don't know apparently. 

So, regarding Burgundy, I told her that although it is a complex and complicated region to understand, I will try to explain to her in a very simple manner via some illustrations (drawings, shapes, graphs, pyramids, processes, cycles, and other visuals) for her (and others) to better understand. And that is what prompts me to write this post.    


💥 Work in progress, to be finished soon💥



















Santé! Cheers!

LeDomduVin (a.k.a. Dominique Noël)


(*) A.B. frost Illustration found on this website http://www.gutenberg.org/files/12460/12460-h/12460-h.htm

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Wine Bottle Weight, Shape, Glass and Label Design Changes Over Time (Part 2): Chateau Mouton Rothschild


Wine Bottle Weight, Shape, Glass 

and Label Design Changes Over Time 

(Part 2): Chateau Mouton Rothschild



Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2024 Label
by © LeDomduVin 2019
Tribute to Jean Carlu



Apology letter 



To the owners of Chateau Mouton Rothschild


My deepest and most sincere apologies to the owners of Château Mouton-Rothschild, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, Camille Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild, for taking such liberty and presenting my work for the label of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 2024 vintage in such manner (😉).

I did not mean any disrespect or any harm to you or your brand. In fact, I have profound respect for your family, more especially for your mother, Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, that I had the chance and the pleasure to meet several times during my 28 years career in the wine business, and for whom I had lots of admiration, for her lively personality, her strength of character and her addictive "joie-de-vivre". 

But you have to understand that it is a tradition for me to begin my posts with an illustration of mine (usually a photo, a drawing, or a collage, etc...) specially created to introduce the subject of my blog's posts; and I thought about a (funny) tribute to Jean Carlu to celebrate the centenary of the iconic label he created back in 1924.


Château Mouton Rothschild 1924 Label


I personally love his 1924 vintage label (from the Art-Deco / Cubism era), which was used as the background for the coat of arms, (with the rams on each side), appearing on the label of the following vintage, 1925, and has remained there ever since. See in my creation an unintended subliminal message may be... 

As this post is mostly about Chateau Mouton-Rothschild label design changes, (which have occurred over the last 120 years), I wanted to add a dash of humor by creating this "imitation" label to see if people might fall for it, looking at a potentially genuine label at first sight (you never know, some people not looking too closely at first glance might think it could be....). 

I tend to think that my illustrations can be either funny or sarcastic, (or even, a bit "cerebral" sometimes, with "rather-french" 2nd-degree jokes and metaphorical sense of humour... (*)). Some sort of gimmicks to amuse my readers, helping, in a "ludique" (playful) way, to digest all the contents of my posts, which are often too long, too detailed and irritably too often derivating from and, hence, losing focus on the original subject... (sorry, that's the way my mind works and that's also my writing style in both French and English....sigh...); and therefore, I could not resist the temptation to start this post on such an iconic Bordeaux wine with a label of my own creation.  

I hope you will forgive me and be merciful for the liberty I took to create this label for a vintage that has yet to come and without you commissioning me to do it. Yet, I'll appreciate if you could consider it as a potential candidate label for this particular upcoming vintage.... (No worries if you don't, but I had to ask... you never know...😉)

Thank you for your understanding. 

Deepest regards,

Sincerely yours, 

LeDomduVin      





Ok, now that my apology is out of the way, and without further ado, let's move on to the post. A lengthy post again, but with some really interesting details, facts and stories, (as I always try to provide you with, within most of my posts).




Prologue: While writing the first post on the same subject, I created the collage below, called "Mouton Rothschild label designs over the last 120 years" and, (as usual), started to write quite intensively about the history and design evolution of these particular labels of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. When I realized how long the post was already (part 1), I decided to cut the part on Château Mouton-Rothschild, and paste it in this brand new post (part 2), which is now a post on its own, solely dedicated to the history and design evolution of the labels of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild over the last 120 years (to which I added a few lines at the end on the bottle shape, weight and glass used for the Mouton's bottles, like I did for Chateau Latour in part 1).

Read the previous post on the same subject "Wine Bottle Weight, Shape, Glass and Label Design Changes Over Time" (part 1) (featuring Château Latour)  here






Chateau Mouton Rothschild


Wine Bottle Weight, Shape, Glass 

and Label Design Changes Over Time 




Château Mouton-Rothschild is probably the best example to take when talking about bottle and , more especially, label design changes over time, as it is one of the only (if not THE only) Châteaux or wine estate in the world that has changed its label design so many times over the years, since its acquisition by Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild back in 1853.

Like all great stories, it begins by "Once upon a time,..." Baron Philippe de Rothschild, (great-grandson of Baron Nathaniel) and 4th generation of the Rothschild family owning the Château, had the brilliant idea to commission artists to create artworks to embellish the label of Château Mouton Rothschild. 

Between 1853 and the early 1920s, the label of Château Mouton Rothschild slightly evolved but rather insignificantly compared to the drastic design changes which occurred subsequently.

To celebrate the first bottling at the Château ("Mise en bouteilles au Château") of the vintage 1924 , bottled in 1927, Baron Philippe commissioned Jean Carlu (1900-1997), a graphic artist, famous for his poster works regarded as an expression of the dominant artistic movement at that time called the "Cubism", to create the label of the 1924 vintage. The visual impact of this particular label distinguished the 1924 vintage label as the beginning of a new era for Mouton Rothschild.

Immediately after, the label of the 1925 vintage was changed again to a rather discreet and sober visual design compared to the loud and colorful 1924 vintage label. From 1925 to 1944, the label continued to evolve with the following vintages, gaining in elegance, refinement and sophistication. 

Yet, it is only with the 1945 label, to commemorate the "Victory" and the end of World War II, that Baron Philippe started, and established, what will become a tradition with all the labels of the subsequent vintages, by commissioning another contemporary artist to design the label of Mouton-Rothschild 1945 vintage (bottled in 1948). This time, he commissioned a young, unknown artist named Philippe Jullian (1921-1977), who displayed early promise as a designer and became a successful dramatist. After Jullian submitted several drafts, Baron Philippe chose the one based on the famous “V for Victory” that Churchill used throughout the war to rally the forces of freedom.

The resulting 1945 label became a beacon, an expression of quality and taste, as well as a canvas for previously unreleased artworks especially inspired by and crafted for Château Mouton Rothschild,  a genius visual marketing stunt pioneered by Baron Philippe. 


And, thus, the tradition of commissioning a contemporary artist to embellish and revamp the label design of Château Mouton-Rothschild for each vintage was born. The rest is history.   



Chateau Mouton-Rothschild Label Designs over the last 120 years 
by ©LeDomduVin 2019



Brief history and details of the most significant design changes 

for Château Mouton Rothschild labels from 1853 to 1945 

(and a few more recent ones too) 


Inspired by the collage I did (see picture above), instead of talking about all the labels since 1945, (like on the picture of all the Mouton's label from 1945 to 2013 further below and like in most books published about Mouton Rothschild), I wanted to focus only on the most significant label design changes of Château Mouton-Rothschild, more especially those from 1853 to 1945 (**):

  • 1853 - Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild (1812-1870), of the English branch of the eponymous family, bought the Château Brane-Mouton for a sum of 1,125,000 francs (or roughly 172,000 Euros, a colossal sum at the time) and immediately renamed the Château "Mouton-Rothschild". The vineyard at this time was in bad shape as it had been no longer maintained for a few years, as the only building was an old dilapidated farm offering no living or sleeping accommodation possibility and thus the owners never lived on site and were just appointing someone as a manager to take care of the vineyards and the wine. Baron Nathaniel, living in Paris at that time, appointed Theodore Galos, a Bordeaux Negociant who also owned a few vineyards, as the estate manager. Within 2-3 years, Theodore rapidly upgraded and restored the vineyard and the cellars.



Chateau Mouton Rothschild Vintage 1855 Label -
©LeDomduVin 2019


  • 1855 - Exposition Universelle de Paris and Bordeaux Classifications - The Emperor Napoleon III requested from the members of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Bordeaux to produce a ranking of the most prestigious properties of Bordeaux, to be presented at the Universal Exhibition of Paris (World Fair), which took place from May 15 to November 15 1855 on the Champs Elysees. This classification was based on the reputation, the notoriety and the price of these properties (since, at least, ten or even fifty years according to some sources), these prices being directly related to the quality of the wines at this time. Despite the efforts of Theodore Galos to restore the vineyards and cellars in order to increase the value of the property (which was on the rise at that time), Mouton-Rothschild was not classified as a first growth, which seems logical considering that the selection criteria was based on the property prices over fifty years, and knowing the fact that the vineyards and the farm were left unattended for years by owners not leaving on site, thus diminishing the value of the estate. Not having a proper Chateau or mansion on site and being recently acquired by a British probably did not help either. However, Chateau Mouton-Rothschild was still classified as a 2nd Growth in the classification. From 1855 to 1888, the labels only mentioned "Mouton" (not yet "Chateau Mouton Rothschild") and bore the name of "R. Galos" named after "Roche Galos", the estate manager at that time.

NB: For those of you who might wonder (like I did), I was not able to find any info regarding the link between "Theodore Galos" and "Roche Galos", both supposedly being the estate manager of Chateau Mouton Rothschild at that period, and both appearing in many texts and references on the history of the Chateau. Are they two different persons? Or are they the same person? If anyone knows, please let me know, I will be very interested to know. More especially knowing that officially "Theodore Galos" was appointed by Baron Nathaniel as the estate manager and has been credited for restoring the vineyards and cellars; while "Roche Galos" is also mentioned in many texts as the estate manager and his name appears on the labels between 1855 and 1888. I read countless articles and even extracts of books on the subject, and I still could not figure it out. So, if you did, please tell me. 



  • 1880 - The son of Nathaniel de Rothschild, Baron James de Rothschild (1844-1881), began construction of the Chateau and named it: Petit Mouton


Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1889 Label -
Photo courtesy of picclick.fr

  • 1889 - "Baron de Miollis" Label - Baron Augustin de Miollis (1864-1939) was appointed estate manager, the labels still only mentioned "Mouton" (not yet "Chateau Mouton Rothschild") and from 1889 to 1920 bore the name of "Bon de Miollis". You can also notice the first few changes on the label:
  • The name of the appointed manager changed from "R. Galos" to "Bon de Miollis", "Bon de Miollis - Gérant", which translate to "Baron de Miollis - Manager" 
  • The name of the owner of the Chateau changed from "Baron de Rothschild, Propriétaire" to "Hers du Bon de Rothschild Propres", which is the abbreviation of "Heritiers de Baron de Rothschild Propriétaires"  
  • The wines were still not bottled and labelled at the Chateau at that time, but by a 3rd party, usually, a Négociant, buying the wine, then taking care of the bottling and labelling, and even the ageing sometimes; or by someone appointed as the estate manager also in charge of the bottling and labelling. 



Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1900 Label -
Photo courtesy of picclick.fr

  • 1900 - The turn of the century, still showcasing the "Baron de Miollis" Label (1889-1920) 




Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1920 Label

  • 1920 - The label is redesigned: The Baron introduced on the label the design of the stylized Château as well as a bundle of 5 arrows, but still without preceding the name "Mouton" with the term "Château", while the Négociants (Bordeaux Wine Merchants/Traders) already used the name "Château Mouton". It is interesting to notice that the notion of provenance is now clarified with the addition of "Pauillac, Gironde" on the label (then "Pauillac, Médoc" later on) to precise the Appellation of Origin. The owner's name has also changed to "Baron Henri de Rothschild", one of the 2 sons of Nathaniel de Rothschild, who took over after the passing of his father in 1870, but let the Chateau being run by the manager in place, Baron de Miollis, and the Cellar Master Gustave Bonnefours.   

    • 1922 - A new era began for Chateau Mouton-Rothchild: On October 22, 1922, the grandson of Nathaniel de Rothschild and second son of Henri de Rothschild, Philippe de Rothschild (1902-1988) took the direction of the property provided that he stops car racings. Philippe immediately came up with one of his most famous quotes, which he gave as a motto to the Chateau: "Premier ne puis, second ne daigne, Mouton suis", which translate to "First I could not, second I do not deign, Mouton I am". Under Philippe's direction, the estate will take off and reach the glory it deserved.


    Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1924 Label 


      • 1924 - First real label design change: In 1924, on the initiative of Baron Philippe de Rothschild, all the wines produced are, for the first time, bottled at the château (at the same time and in agreement with Château Margaux). To mark this event, the Baron commissioned Jean Carlu (1900-1997), a graphic artist, famous for his poster works regarded as an expression of the dominant artistic movement at that time, called the "Cubism", to create the label of the 1924 vintage. This same label has also been used for 1918, 1920, 1921 and 1926 vintage, (according to a source) some labelled that way due to late released bottles from the Chateau for the famous wine retailer chain (caviste) "Etablissements Nicolas" (founded back in 1822).




      Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1925 Label


      • 1925 - Once more the label is redesigned and resemble a little to what it will become later on. The lines are clean, elegant and refined, and despite being heavily criticized at the time, this label will be used for the 1925, 1926 and 1928 vintage, along with the other label designed by Jean Carlu above, which has also been used for the 1926 vintage for example. Notice the details of the "logo", specifically created for Chateau Mouton Rothschild, representing two rams, standing on an unmarked ribbon, on each side of a coat of arms shield featuring the details of the 1924 vintage label created by Jean Carlu, surmounted by a crown (and what could be vines atop the crown? not sure..) and a blank ribbon underneath.  




      Carruades de Mouton Rothschild 1927 Label



      • 1927 - The harvest was mediocre, therefore Baron Philippe decided that there will be no wine sold under "Château Mouton-Rothschild", instead, the wine produced on that particular vintage was sold under the name of "Carruades de Mouton-Rothschild". Baron Philippe commissioned Jean Carlu again to create a special label for this vintage. 




      "Le Second Vin" 1993 and "Le Petit Mouton" 1994
      de Mouton Rothschild labels


      NB: This specific label was re-used in 1993 for the 2nd wine under the name of "Le Deuxieme Vin de Mouton Rothschild", then again in 1994 under the definitive name of "Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild", a name that has remained the same ever since.





      Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1929 Label


      • 1929 - Back to a similar label than the one of the 1925 vintage, yet, with a redesigned "logo" (or "Emblème" or "Ecu" or "Blason" or "Coat of Arms", or whatever else you call it), I call it "logo", as a "Blason" or "Coat of Arms" is usually attributed to a family with royal, noble or military roots passed on generations, while the "logo" on this label was specifically created for Château Mouton Rothschild for the 1925 vintage label (see above). It was redesigned with larger and more defined details of the similar figures and details already present on the 1925 label. When comparing 1925 and 1929 label, both logos represent two rams, standing on an unmarked ribbon, on each side of a coat of arms shield featuring the details of the 1924 vintage label created by Jean Carlu, surmounted by a crown.  This label will be used for the 1929 to 1931 vintage. No wine was produced under Chateau Mouton Rothschild in 1930 and 1932, only under Mouton Cadet.  




      Château Mouton Cadet 1930 Selection Rothschild Label 


      • 1930 - No wine was produced under Château Mouton Rothschild for the 1930 and 1932 vintage, as the quality of both vintages were not good enough to go into the "Grand Vin". Yet, even of lesser quality, the wines of these 2 particular vintages were still made with the same care as better vintages, and therefore good enough to be sold. Consequently, Baron Philippe de Rothschild decided to launch, in 1930, a new label (a 2nd label, not a 2nd wine) called "Mouton Cadet. Interesting to notice that this label of Mouton Cadet is far more complex than the current one, boasting elegant writings, with the signature of the Cellar Master, and the "logo" or "coat of arms" of both siblings: Mouton Rothschild and Mouton d'Armailhacq.

      NB: Mouton-Cadet, although seemingly sold as a second wine at the time, was not a second wine, but a second label, meaning that it was a wine on its own, rather than being, like the second wine of the "Grand Vin" (common name for the "first wine" of the Chateaux in Bordeaux). Back in 2017, I wrote a post about 1st and 2nd growth, and 2nd wine and 2nd label, you can read it here (if interested). 





      Château Mouton Rothschild 1931 Labe
      Courtesy of Cellar Tracker



      • 1931 - Same label as 1925 to 1929 label, the only difference is the apparition of the writing Mouton Rothschild in the "blason" (or "coat of arms") 



      • 1931 - Comte Roger de Ferrand, owner of Chateau d'Armailhacq, launches the limited company "Domaine de  Mouton d'Armailhacq" regrouping 3500 shares of 1000 French francs each. Baron Philippe de Rothschild becomes a minority shareholder.



      Château Mouton Rothschild 1932 Label
      (courtesy of Cellar Tracker)
      Fake/counterfeit Label


      • 1932 - As stated above, No wine was produced under Château Mouton Rothschild for the 1930 and 1932 vintage. Therefore, imagine my surprise, while searching for the label of another vintage, when I stumbled across this particular label of Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1932 online (more especially on such serious wine geek website as Cellar Tracker). I could have been fooled if I did not know better. But I realized, at first glance, that this particular label is a fake, counterfeited for whatever reason, but definitely a fake, which is very interesting (more especially for an experienced Sommelier and Wine Control Director like me, who's in charge of the wine inspection and authentication for the company I work for) as I immediately felt the need to study it and scrutinize it to note the number of mistakes made by the counterfeiter, by comparing it with the 1933 label, and more especially the 1934 label below.  
        • The label: No wine was produced under Château Mouton Rothschild for the 1932 vintage; therefore this label cannot exit to start with !!!
        • The vintage: The vintage states 1932, but the text underneath states harvested in 1934 and bottled in 1937 (which is basically indicating that someone took the label of the 1934 vintage, and changed the vintage to 1932 instead of 1934 
        • The text: Comparing it with the 1934 vintage label below, it is clear that my intuition in the second point is confirmed; the text is the same as of the 1934 vintage, except the total amount of bottles produced 
        • The total amount of bottles produced: 134,989 bottles were produced for the 1934 vintage, not 139,074 bottles like on this fake 1932 label
        • The colour of the serial number: back then the color of the serial number was black, not red, the red color came later on. 
        • The mention "Mis en Bouteille au Château" was not put on the label until later on too. 
      • Conclusion: no doubt whatsoever, and for all the reasons cited above, this is a fake/counterfeit label. The counterfeiter made a convincing label for amateurs, maybe, but way too many mistakes for people who have a keen eye to spots anomalies at first glance due to their experience.    


      Château Mouton d'Armailhacq 1933 Label
      Courtesy of chateau-darmailhac.com



      • 1933 - The domain of Armailhacq is sold to the Baron de Rothschild and in 1934, the Comte de Ferrand dies. 



      Château Mouton Rothschild 1933 Label 


      • From 1933 (to 1944) appears a text mentioning the date of the bottling, as well as the number of bottles produced, in mixed quantity, including bottles, half-bottles, magnums, jéroboams and imperials, as well as a serial number proper to each bottle and the signature of Baron Philippe.

      NB: From 1938 to 1941, the signature of Baron Philippe de Rothschild does not appear on the labels of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, as the Baron was imprisoned in the prison of Vichy. 





      Château Mouton Rothschild 1934 Label
      Courtesy of  Oregon Wine History

      • 1934 - This is a genuine label of Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1934 vintage, interesting to compare it with the fake 1932 vintage label above if you haven't done it yet...  Interesting to notice also the disappearance of the "s" at the end of "bouteille" in the mention "Mis en bouteille au Château", which was written "Mis en bouteilles au Château"  (so, with an "s") since 1924. 





      Château Mouton Rothschild 1936 Label
      Picture courtesy of Christies.com

      • 1936 - The mention "Mis en Bouteille au Château" is moved from the bottom of the label to the top of the label curved around the "blason" ("coat of armas") (it might have been done for the 1935 vintage too)





      Château Mouton Rothschild 1937 Label
      Courtesy of Cellar Tacker


      • 1937 - "Château Mouton Rothschild" is moved up above the vintage and the main text. The mention of "Appellation Pauillac-Médoc Controlée" is moved at the begin of the text and the name "Pauillac" and "Médoc" disappear from the bottom of the label 



      Château Mouton Rothschild 1939 Label


      • 1938 - 1941 - Baron Philippe de Rothschild is imprisoned at the prison of Vichy, therefore the signature of Baron Philippe de Rothschild does not appear on the labels of Château Mouton-Rothschild during that period. The labels of 1938, 1939, 1940 and 1941 vintages all look like the label of 1939 above. 



      Château Mouton Rothschild 1942 Label


      • 1942 - Baron Philippe de Rothschild escaped from the Vichy prison and fleed to London. The vintage 1942 is bottled in 1945 at the end of the war. The Château, which had been occupied by the German during the war and managed by Heinz Bömers (1893-1978), named as the weinführer of Bordeaux by Hermann Göring (1893-1946), is restituted to the Rothschild Family. Baron Philippe is back and the label is restored to what is used to look like for the 1936 vintage, including the Baron's signature and with "Château Mouton Rothschild" at the bottom of the label (below the vintage and the text). 





      Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1942 Label
      Courtesy of  Philippe Margot
      "Galerie d'art sur Bouteilles I
      - Les étiquettes de Château Mouton Rothschild"


      • 1942 - Looking for a label of the 1942 vintage, I stumbled across this particular label, which, as per Philippe Margot, in his book "Galerie d'art sur Bouteilles I - Les étiquettes de Château Mouton Rothschild" (that you can read here - it is in French), is also an official label of the 1942 vintage, which has been recognized by the Château Mouton Rothschild as being genuine without giving more explanation on the reason why 2 labels were created for this specific vintage. 

      Could we blame the Germans for this particular label? As previously said above, during WWII (1939-1945), Baron Philippe was in prison (1938-1942) and Château Mouton Rothschild was taken from the Rothschild Family, occupied by the German and managed by Heinz Bömers (1893-1978), up until 1942. However, the vintage 1942, was bottled and labelled in 1945 when the Chateau was restituted to the Rothschild family and the Baron was back, thus it seems that the Germans have nothing do with that label. 

      Weird choice of Latin words..... Even the Latin words "HIC EST BONUM MOUTON" could appear as a joke as the literal translation means "THIS IS GOOD MOUTON"  

      As the Château will not release more info on this specifically weird looking label of Mouton Rothschild 1942 vintage, it will remain a mystery... or an unsuccessful label design stunt/attempt 😊   






      Château Mouton Rothschild Verticale 1940 -1945
      Picture posted by and courtesy of
      Patrick Lubarski on LinkedIn in 2017


      • 1943 - Interesting to notice that on the picture above, courtesy of Patrick Lubarski (owner of SAS Vin 24) posted on his LinkedIn account about 2 years ago, the label of Château Mouton Rothschild 1943 vintage is smaller than 1942 and 1944. I searched for a while online to see if I could find any clues of the reason why, but couldn't find any (after all, it is my role as Wine Quality Control director to understand and know this kind of things and it is good for me to have this kind of records when doing wine inspections). In fact, studying the position of the label of the 1943 vintage on various pictures of bottles of that particular vintage, it seems that the format of 1943 label is, in fact, smaller than previous and following vintage, but I believe that I saw some regular formats too. So the question is: Are both formats available (the regular size and the smaller size)? I do not want to jump to a conclusion as I do not have the facts and do not know the answer to this question. However, you have to admit that it is quite strange  to see both formats (unless the smaller size is the original label and the regular size might correspond to a later release; or, unless the availability of the paper for the label run out due to the war and only small labels could be printed at the time... not sure).  In fact, we can say that the 1943 label is the same size as the bottom label of the 1945 to 1949 vintage.  

      NB: in reference to the original subject of this post which also includes the changes in the "glass of the bottles", it is important to notice the color and thickness of the glass in the picture above. As stated many times in various previous posts (read it here for example), you have to remember that historically, during WWII, glass used to produce wine bottles was less available, as well as sulfur used to produce darker more amber glass, and consequently bottles ended up being lighter in weight (less thick) and lighter in color too (being clearer, tending on nearly transparent and light blue to light green, as you can see on the picture above). Note that the color and heaviness of the glass used gradually went back to thicker darker green glass by 1948 when the 1945 vintage was bottled. 







      Château Mouton Rothschild 1945 Label
      - LeDomduVin



      • 1945 - Although Baron Philippe's initial idea of commissioning artists to embellish the label of Château Mouton Rothschild appeared first with the 1924 vintage and was further developed within the few subsequent vintage's label changes, it was not until the 1945 vintage that the tradition of incorporating an artist's work atop the main label really started. "In 1945, to commemorate the Allied victory, Baron Philippe de Rothschild had the idea of embellishing the Mouton Rothschild label with art-work: in this instance, a symbolic design intended to celebrate the return of peace. He commissioned this from a young unknown artist, Philippe Jullian (1921-1977). Having displayed early promise as a designer, he was to go on to become a successful dramatist. He submitted several drafts for the label: this one is based on the famous “V for Victory” that  Churchill used throughout the war to rally the forces of freedom." courtesy of www.chateau-mouton-rothschild.com

      NB: As already stated in my previous posts on Mouton Rothschild 1945 (read it here), the label of Château Mouton Rothschild 1945 is divided into 2 distinctively different labels that are slightly apart from each other. The upper one, on which the "V" represents "Victory" ("Victoire" in French), to commemorate the ending of World War II, is smaller in height but more particularly smaller in width by a few millimetres on both sides (as you can see on the picture above). The lower label, or main label, is detached from the upper one and slightly wider in width. If you encounter a bottle of Mouton 1945 with the 2 labels attached and/or even detached but with the same width, then it is surely a fake bottle, a counterfeit that you should report, immediately if you can, to the Château, which will in turn investigate. Funny enough, when looking at labels of Château Mouton Rothschild 1945 online, most of them have both upper and lower labels attached together and with the same width, which makes me believe that these are probably fakes (unless certified released from the Château, ask to see certification if that is the case).

      FYI: It is said that 20-25% of the top 50 most expensive and top wines of the world on the market (more especially Top tiers French wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy) are actually fakes, extraordinary well-crafted counterfeits that usually challenge even the eyes of the best experts on the market. It is also said that there are more of these fake bottles of top tiers wines in circulation around the world than the total amount ever produced at the winery back then. Which, in my opinion, is not surprising knowing how difficult it was to access these old and rare vintages (especially any vintages prior the 50s) already back in the mid 1990s (there were barely none available at the time, as most of them had been either consumed or for the last few remaining ones kept as part of inaccessible collections) compared to nowadays where they seem to be available pretty much everywhere.... go figure... Rudy Kurniawan may have been caught and imprisoned for 10 years back in 2012, but his legacy has definitely been survived by his fellow peers and others who came to be inspired by his works.       




      Château Mouton Rothschild 1945 to 1949 Label
      Picture courtesy of World Wine Consultant SA



      As you can see in this "verticale" of Château Mouton Rothschild 1945 to 1949 vintage (in the picture above, courtesy of World Wine Consultant SA) the labels (upper and lower) are detached and slightly different in width for the 1945 and 1946 vintages only.

      Starting with the 1947 vintage, the "Jean Cocteau" label, both upper and lower were attached together, forming only one label (only separated by a black line) and had the same width. The black line separating the artwork (upper label) from the rest of the label (lower label) last appeared on the 1962 label, after which the bottom of the artwork solely defined where the upper label finishes and where the lower label begins.


      Voilà! This was my brief history and details of the most significant design changes for Château Mouton Rothschild labels from 1853 to 1945. Hope you liked it as much as I did searching for all these details and writing about them. 


      Now, I will not do all the labels since 1945, I will just point out the few most significant label design changes that occurred from 1945 to present  





      Brief history and details of the most significant design changes 


      for Château Mouton Rothschild labels from 1945 to Present




      Strangely enough, the next most significant changes on Château Mouton Rothschild label design, from 1945 to present, came with the vintages 1953, 1973, 1993 and 2003 (not counting 2000 vintage, as the whole bottle was engraved and thus,  technically, there is no label...)





      Château Mouton Rothschild 1953 Label


      • 1953 - The label for this particular vintage was designed to commemorate the acquisition of the Château Mouton Rothschild on May 11th 1853 by Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild. This label and thus vintage, are dedicated to Baron Philippe's great-grandfather Baron Nathaniel, grandfather James and father Henri de Rothschild, the 3 generations who run the estate prior Baron Philippe took over on October 22nd 1922.     





      Château Mouton Rothschild 1973 Label
      Courtesy of Château Mouton Rothschild


      • 1973 - Although 1973 was a very bad vintage in Bordeaux, it is my birth year, and that's is the main reason I wanted to add it to this post; but also because the artwork is from Pablo Picasso, whom I love both as an artist and as a man for the type of life he had, and thirdly because, compared to all the previous and subsequent labels, it is one of the biggest artworks featured on a Château Mouton Rothschild label (see the whole collection of labels in the picture below to see what I mean), which makes it quite relevant and important, and visually appealing (in my opinion).  






      Château Mouton Rothschild 1993 Labels
      Collage by ©LeDomduVin 2019


      • 1993 - A list of Château Mouton Rothschild label design changes will not be complete without the controversial label of the 1993 vintage. Created by "Balthus", the pseudonym of Count Balthazar Klossowski de Rola (1908-2001), and perfectly accepted as is (back then) in France and in Europe in general, the drawing he made for the Mouton Rothschild 1993 vintage, featuring a dreamy, naked adolescent girl in a reclining position, sparked outraged reactions across the Atlantic. The TTB (the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau), in charge of judging what is acceptable or not on a label, and thus giving the approval of the labels for wines produced in or imported into the US, disapproved the reclining nude, finding the drawing of a naked girl on a label completely inappropriate and violating the sensibilities of US citizens (puritanism oblige). Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, the owner of Château Mouton Rothschild, who took over the 3 Chateaux she inherited when her father Baron Philippe de Rothschild passed away in 1988 (Mouton as well as Château d'Armailhac and Château Clerc Milon), decided not to fight the US bureaucracy and instead just removed the drawing from the label for the US market only.     


      PS: the blank label above is "for example only" and may not reflect the true blank label, which is actually the same as the one with the drawing, but without the drawing... (obviously...)







      Château Mouton Rothschild 2003 Label



      • 2003 - This particular label was designed to commemorate and mark the 150th anniversary of the acquisition of Château Mouton Rothschild in 1853 by Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild, hence his portrait as the main feature of the label.   




      And last but not least.....


      Château Mouton Rothschild 2000 Bottle




      • 2000 - Mouton Rothschild celebrated both the New Century and New Millenium by engraving the bottle of this particular vintage with a very finely chiselled and detailed replica of "The Augsburg Ram" in 24-carat Gold. The "Augsburg Ram" is a "chased silver-gilt drinking vessel created around 1590 by Jakob Schenauer, a German master goldsmith". (*)




      Et Voilà!  This concludes my brief history and details of the most significant design changes for Château Mouton Rothschild labels from 1945 to present. 



      Here is the whole collection of Mouton-Rothschild labels from 1945 to 2013 (photo courtesy of www.theartistlabels.com), for you to have a better view of the label design changes over the last 70 years.


      Chateau Mouton Rothschild Labels from 1945 to 2013 -
      photo courtesy of www.theartistlabels.com





      Like I did for Château Latour, in my previous post on the same subject (post 1 - read it here), here are a few examples of bottle weight and glass thickness and heaviness changes over time for Mouton Rothschild.




      Wine Bottle Weight, Shape and 

      Glass Thickness and heaviness changes over time




      Chateau Mouton Rothschild Full and Empty bottles
      1947, 1949, 1970, 1982, 1990 and 1995
      - photo ©LeDomduVin 2019



      Looking at this picture I took in our cellar (above) of various vintages of Château Mouton Rothschild, you can easily notice the changes and evolution of the bottle and label shape and size, as well as the differences in the thickness and heaviness of the glass used. You can also notice the differences and evolution of the capsules.

      • Château Mouton Rothschild 1947 and 1949 - the bottle is tall, with broad shoulders and heavy, thick, dark color glass; the front label(s) is small (smaller than later versions) 
      • Château Mouton Rothschild 1970 and 1982 - the bottle is slightly smaller, leaner, lighter in weight and lighter in color too, and was made with less heavy and less thick glass than 1947 and 1949
      • Château Mouton Rothschild 1990 and 1995 - the bottle is about the same heights as 1970/1982, yet with slightly higher and broader shoulders, and slightly darker and thicker, heavier glass too. Still not as tall, broad, thick, heavy and dark as 1947/1949   

      In terms of weight, I took the following picture to check the weight variations of empty bottles to verify the thickness and heaviness of the glass.


      Château Mouton Rothschild 1970, 1982 and 1990 empty bottle weights
      by ©LeDomduVin 2019
      As you can see in the picture above, the weight of these particular empty bottles is:

      • 564g (grams) for Château Mouton Rothschild 1970
      • 567g for Château Mouton Rothschild 1982 (in fact it is probably 564 too, due to the few grams added by the cork)
      • 545g for Château Mouton Rothschild 1990, although the glass looks darker and may appear thicker, the empty bottle of 1990 is about 22g lighter than 1970 





      For this particular exercise, I also weighted empty bottles of Haut Brion, Lafite Rothschild and Cos d'Estournel, but I realize that this post is quite long (once again) and so to conclude it I will just put these last 3 pictures.




      Château Haut-Brion 1966, 1982, 1989 and 1990 empty bottles
      by ©LeDomduVin 2019





      Château Cos d'Estournel 1961, 1986 and 1990 empty bottles
      by ©LeDomduVin 2019





      Château Lafite Rothschild 1959 and 1961 empty bottles
      by ©LeDomduVin 2019





      I will end this post here (part 1 and 2), as I could continue forever writing on this fascinating subject, but you might get bored and me too. So, let's finish on a high note with this picture of Château Lafite Rothschild 1959 and 1961 empty bottles. Hoping that you liked to learn about all these details as much as me researching and writing about them.   


      That's all folks!

      Santé! Cheers! And stay tuned for more posts like this one (factual and educational) coming soon. 


      LeDomduVin a.k.a. Dominique Noël


      PS: you can read the part one of this post here



      (*) I see some of you scratching their head sometimes when looking at my illustrations, prior to getting the joke only after a few seconds of consideration... 😉

      (*) Info about Chateau Mouton-Rothschild was taken or partly taken from the Château website at https://www.chateau-mouton-rothschild.com/, but also from a very interesting and useful online book (in French) by Philippe Margot, titled "L'intégral des étiquettes de Château Mouton-Rothschild de 1855 à aujourd'hui" that you can read here