Baroness Rothschild, Matriarch Of France's Most Famous Wine Family, Has Died

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild. Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, the driving force behind the famed Bordeaux wine estate Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, has died. She was 80.

Rothschild died on the weekend in Paris, following complications from surgery. She was known as the grande dame of French wine, and referred to by many as The Baroness, having taken over the running of Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA, founded by her great-great grandfather in 1853, when her father died in 1988.

She gave up a successful career as an actress – her stage name was Philippine Pascale – to chair the family company, which also includes two more Bordeaux estates, Chateau d’Armailhac and Chateau Clerc Milon, plus brands such as Mouton Cadet, as well as holdings in Chile and the USA, including the Robert Mondavi joint-venture Opus One.

Mouton-Rothschild wines are famed for the art on the tables by some of the world’s greatest artists, including Miro, Chagall, Braque, Picasso, Francis Bacon, Dali, and even Jeff Koons.

She followed in the footsteps of the powerful French wine women of earlier generations, such as Lily Bollinger and the widow (veuve) Barbe-Nicole Clicquot.

Under Rothschild’s leadership, she introduced a second label, Le Petit Mouton, in the 1990s and the Chilean joint-venture Vina Almaviva, as well as buying an estate in the Languedoc region, which she renamed Domaine de Baron’arques.

Within 12 years of taking the helm, the Baroness had more than doubled the company’s output and income to more than 2.1 million cases of wine in 2000.

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild knew tragedy early on. Born in Nazi-occupied Paris in November 1933, she was only 10 when the Gestapo arrested her mother, Elisabeth, and she subsequently died in the Ravensbruck concentration camp. The Paris mansion she grew up in became the German Naval Command HQ. She was five when her brother died soon after birth and her parents separated soon after.

She graduated from the Paris Conservatoire National d’Art Dramatique in 1958 and would later put the flamboyance of her acting skills to good use as the chairperson of her company.

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, was an only child and is survived by her first husband the director and actor Jacques Noël Sereys and their two children Camille and Philippe, and second husband, writer and philosopher Jean-Pierre de Beaumarchais, with whom she had another son, Julien.

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