Clerc Milon was the third of the Pauillac classed growths acquired by Baron Philippe de Rothschild, joining Mouton and d'Armailhac. Its name derives from two sources: Milon is the name of the hamlet in which it is located, in the north-east of the Pauillac appellation, and Clerc is the name of the family which acquired it after the French Revolution. By the time of the 1855 Classification, the property had 30 hectares under vine, and was awarded fifth growth status.
Despite its illustrious neighbours - it is not far from both Lafite and Mouton-Rothschild - quality had dwindled significantly by the time the Rothschilds acquired it in 1970. Much of the vineyard had been sold, and what remained was 16.5 hectares in fragmented parcels, so Baron Philippe de Rothschild set about reclaiming some of the best vineyard plots.
The vines now span 40 hectares on gentle slopes of deep gravel and clay-limestone soils. Clerc Milon also has some of the oldest vines in the Médoc - the average age is an impressive 53 years - and of course the vineyards benefit from the same care and attention to detail as those at Mouton Rothschild. Since 2004 the property also incorporates the small estate La Fleur Milon.
There have also been huge renovations to the estate's buildings. The château itself is now a circular, temple-like building with a vast terrace which leads out onto the vines. In 2007, a new gravity-operated winery was built, which allows for less invasive vinification methods, ensuring that the minimum amount of the grapes' natural aromas and character is lost. A new temperature-controlled chai was also added in 2011.
The wine is quite different in style from Mouton Rothschild and d'Armailhac, being full-bodied, fairly chunky and perhaps less elegant, with a higher proportion of merlot. The blend incorporates five of Bordeaux's premium varieties: 29% is cabernet sauvignon, 37% merlot, 11% cabernet franc, 2% petit verdot and 1% carménère. After vinification, the wine spends 18 months in oak barrels, 40% of which are new. Clerc Milon repays longer cellaring than d'Armailhac - typically around 10 to 25 years.
The Rothschilds sought inspiration for Clerc Milon's labels from the Museum of Wine in Art at Mouton Rothschild: first, a silver cup called a Jungfraubecher (a tradition of German weddings throughout the 17th century) was featured, and from 1983 the label has sported a pair of 17th century dancers made of precious stones.