Baron Eric de Rothschild’s Duhart-Milon is younger brother to the great Lafite Rothschild. Besides being neighbours, the chateaux share the same vineyard management and winemaking teams. In fact, Duhart Milon, known for its elegance, combined with Paulliac’s typical power, was once the second wine of Chateau Lafite. This was in the 18th century when the estate was known simply as Chateau Milon. Lafite’s owner at that time was the Marquis Nicolas-Alexandre de Ségur, whom Louis XV referred to as “The Wine Prince.” Between 1830 and 1840, the Castéja family inherited Chateau Milon. They chose to rename the property into Duhart-Milon. The oral tradition is that “Sieur Duhart” was the name of a pirate under Louis XV who settled in Pauillac on his retirement. The pirate’s house in the port of Pauillac existed up to the 1950’s and inspired the label for the Duhart-Milon wines. The 1855 classification recognised the quality of Duhart-Milon’s terroir by ranking it as the only 4th growth wine in Pauillac. The Castéja family remained in possession of the estate until the first part of the 20th century. Château Duhart-Milon was then one of largest Pauillac estates with around 50 hectares. In 1937, the result of successive inheritances led to the sale of the estate. The property went through five different owners in just 25 years, and the splitting up of the vineyards caused a speedy decline, which was only made worse by the severe frost of 1956. The quality of the Chateau’s wines declined considerably until the Rothschild family purchased the property in 1962. Duhart-Milon then consisted of 110 hectares, of which only 17 hectares were vines. Major construction projects were then undertaken in the vineyard: draining, uprooting and replanting, the purchase of adjacent plots, and reintegrating the vineyard by trading plots. New cellar and vat rooms were installed in Pauillac.
Today, the property has 76 hectares under vines all of which are now mature. The vineyards are nestled on the Milon hillside, very close to the Carruades plateau. The exceptional terroir combines gravel, sand and limestone: it is easy to understand the Rothschild’s eagerness to purchase its neighbouring estate. The plantings are two-thirds Cabernet Sauvignon and one-third Merlot, although the precise proportion of the grand vin blend can vary with each vintage.
The property has been managed since 1962 by a single team that oversees both Chateau Lafite Rothschild and Chateau Duhart-Milon. Eric Kohler, Technical Director of the Chateau Lafite Rothschild and Chateau Duhart-Milon, is assisted by Oenologist and Winemaker Christophe Congé, and Vineyard Manager Louis Caillard. Both Chateaux use the same traditional techniques based on strict control of yields, harvesting by hand, and numerous manual tasks throughout the year.
Each plot is isolated initially to judge its quality. Several tastings from each vat are then performed in December, to ensure a strict selection for the Grand Vin. Each vintage is aged in oak barrels made at the Domaine’s cooperage. The length of time the wine spends in barrels varies, depending on the vintage, between 10 to 18 months, during which the wines are periodically racked and fined with egg whites. The average annual production of Château Duhart-Milon and Moulin de Duhart, the Chateau’s second wine, is about 30,000 cases.