Baron Elie de Rothschild, the man credited with overseeing the post war revival of France’s famed Chateau Lafite, has died. He was 90.
Elie de Rothschild ran the Bordeaux first growth estate from 1946 to 1974, when current owner Eric de Rothschild took over from his uncle.
At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Elie and his brother Alain rode to the front with their cavalry regiment, the 11th Cuirassiers. Both were captured by German forces during the fall of France in 1940.
After unsuccessfully attempting an escape from Nienburg Prisoner of War camp, Elie was sent to the infamous Colditz castle, where he married childhood sweetheart Liliane Fould-Springer by proxy. He was subsequently moved to Lubeck POW camp, where he was reunited with his brother.
After the war, Elie, Alain and their cousin Guy began to rebuild the family banking business, Rothschild Freres, and their investment concern, the Compagnie du Nord.
In 1946, one year after the acclaimed ’45 vintage, Elie also took over at Chateau Lafite, overseeing its restoration, renovation and administrative restructuring following years of neglect.
He also decided to oppose his cousin, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, in his attempt to acquire first growth status for neighboring estate Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. Now dubbed a “healthy rivalry” by the Lafite website, the two cousins barely spoke to each other during the period, according to Decanter.
Among many innovations, Elie introduced dairy cows to the property in order to have ready access to organic fertilizer. He also was one of the founding members of the Bordeaux wine guild, the Commanderie du Bontemps du Medoc, in 1950.