wine history tours logo
Search
Book Now

Philippe, Baron de Rothschild: A Life of Wine and Artistry

Philippe, Baron de Rothschild

Philippe, Baron de Rothschild, a scion of the legendary Rothschild banking dynasty, led a multifaceted life that transcended the bounds of aristocracy. Born on April 13, 1902, in Paris, he became not only a Grand Prix motor racing driver but also a screenwriter, playwright, theatrical and film producer, poet, and one of the most successful wine growers in the world. His remarkable journey unfolds as we explore his early life, passion for car racing, and his enduring legacy in the world of wine.

Early Life: The Vineyard Beckons

As World War I erupted, young Philippe was sent to the family’s vineyard in Pauillac in the Médoc, a place that would ignite his lifelong love for the countryside and the wine business. The Rothschild family had been involved in winemaking since 1853, but it was Philippe who displayed a remarkable zeal for this endeavor, setting him apart from his family’s traditional aristocratic pursuits[1].

From Playboy to Grand Prix

During the 1920s, Philippe lived the life of a wealthy playboy in Paris, often seen with beautiful actresses at trendy nightspots. In an unexpected twist, he delved into Grand Prix motor racing, adopting the pseudonym “Georges Philippe” to race anonymously. Racing Bugatti cars, he achieved moderate success, even coming fourth in the 1929 Monaco Grand Prix. However, he withdrew from motorsport in 1929 to focus on the family wine-growing business.

Pseudonym and Racing Success

Racing incognito under the name Georges Philippe, he participated in the 1928 Bugatti Grand Prix at Le Mans, finishing second. In 1929, he upgraded to a Grand Prix-specification Bugatti Type 35C and secured fourth place at the inaugural Grand Prix Automobile de Monaco. He even shared the track with renowned drivers like Louis Chiron, but eventually withdrew from motorsport due to increasing fame.

Wine Grower Extraordinaire

Philippe’s true passion lay in the vineyards. At just 20 years old, he took over the operations of Château Mouton Rothschild, introducing a groundbreaking concept of bottling the entire vintage on-site, a practice later emulated by other premier wine producers[2]. He also developed a price-fixing arrangement among top Bordeaux producers.

chateau mouton rothschild

In 1932, Philippe launched “Mouton Cadet,” successful, lower-cost Bordeaux, expanding the reach of his wines. He relentlessly lobbied to reclassify Château Mouton Rothschild as a First Growth vineyard, a mission he eventually accomplished in 1973, marking a historic achievement.

Personal Life and World War II

Philippe married Élisabeth Pelletier de Chambure in 1934, and they had two children, but their marriage faced challenges. Tragedy struck when their son was born with severe deformities and died soon after birth. Philippe’s marriage ended in separation, and his wife reverted to her maiden name. World War II had profound consequences for the Rothschild family, who were Jewish. Philippe’s parents fled to Switzerland, and the family’s Paris mansion became the German Naval Command’s headquarters. Philippe himself was arrested by the Vichy government in Algeria due to his French citizenship being revoked. He eventually joined the Free French Forces under General Charles de Gaulle.

Did you know?

Philippe, Baron de Rothschild created the motto ''I am first, I was second, Mouton never changes.''

Postwar and Legacy

After World War II, Philippe faced the daunting task of rebuilding his vineyard, which had been damaged by the departing German army. 

His dedication, along with the help of committed employees, led to a resurgence in wine production. He also resumed his involvement in the theatrical world, co-writing plays and engaging in artistic pursuits[3].

In 1980, Philippe expanded his wine empire by forming a joint venture, Opus One Winery, with American wine grower Robert Mondavi in California. The vineyard produced exceptional wines that further solidified Philippe’s reputation as a visionary in the wine industry.

Philippe, Baron de Rothschild, passed away in 1988, but his legacy lived on through his daughter, Philippine, who assumed control of the family wine business. The Rothschild vineyard continued to thrive, with labels designed by famous artists and a remarkable Museum of Wine in Art showcasing three millennia of wine-related art.

In conclusion, Philippe, Baron de Rothschild, left an indelible mark not only in the world of wine but also in the realms of art, sports, and culture. His pioneering spirit and dedication to his vineyards forever changed the landscape of winemaking, and his legacy endures through the exceptional wines produced by Château Mouton Rothschild and beyond.

Links to wineries represented by Philippe, Baron de Rothschild

Read More:

References:

[1] https://www.chateau-mouton-rothschild.com/the-history/portraits/baron-philippe-de-rothschild

[2] https://www.bpdr.com/en/the-history/key-dates

[3]
Prial, Frank, “Philippe de Rothschild, 85, Dies; Maker of Chateau Mouton Wine,” The New York Times, (Jan. 21, 1988). https://www.nytimes.com/1988/01/21/obituaries/philippe-de-rothschild-85-dies-maker-of-chateau-mouton-wine.html

 

Want to read more? Try these books!

Baron Philippe- The Very Candid Autobiography of Baron Philippe de Rothschild Bt-Baron Philippe 

Bibliography

CHRISTIAN G.E. SCHILLER, “(German) Winemakers in the World: The German Roots of the Baron Philippe de Rothschild Empire,” (FEBRUARY 24, 2010) https://schiller-wine.blogspot.com/2010/02/german-winemakers-in-world-german-roots_24.html

Prial, Frank, “Philippe de Rothschild, 85, Dies; Maker of Chateau Mouton Wine,” The New York Times, (Jan. 21, 1988). https://www.nytimes.com/1988/01/21/obituaries/philippe-de-rothschild-85-dies-maker-of-chateau-mouton-wine.html

Book Now

Share:

Hot Topics

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.
On Trend

Most Popular Stories

Dick Erath's wine

Dick Erath: An Oregon Legend

Willamette Valley’s Dick Erath Dick Erath’s contributions to the Oregon wine industry were numerous and profound. In the 1960s, he was  actually working in the