Le Pin winery was born March 1979 when Jacques Thienpont, his father & uncle collectively paid one million Francs for a 1-hectare vineyard (for reference, I was offered ¼ hectare of Batard Montrachet just last week for £18 million) owned by Madame Loubie. While the cellar had over the years become a gardening shed with a couple of old wooden vats and a single hand pump, the vineyard itself was in excellent condition. While 1979 produced a tiny volume of fruit, Jacques needed to find a market for his wine. Jacques charged 11 Francs a bottle to friends, family, and wine merchants in Belgium...and so Le Pin (named after the pine tree that still stands outside the winery today) was launched. Due to lack of funds, space, and new equipment created, Jacques had unknowingly created the very first garagiste wine (a style known for bigger, bolder, and fruitier style).
Step forward 40 years and 40 vintages, two of which I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside Jacques and Fiona in the cellar at Le Pin, it was time to celebrate the 40th anniversary with a wonderful dinner here in London at the River Cafe. A few friends gathered and some back vintages were served as wonderful tales, thoughts, and some stories best not repeated were told by Jacques covering his 40 years of discovery. While the new modern winery built in 2010 is an architectural delight, the theory and winemaking practices have hardly changed since the early days. The vineyard does the talking and Jacques serves as translator…simple brilliance I think you call it. During my time spent at Le Pin, I observed Jacques to be a wonderfully modest and graceful man with quite a dry sense of humour. I think he struggles with the world recognition he has achieved with this tiny piece of dirt in Pomerol. Throughout our dinner, we celebrated with some immaculate wine that I have described below.
One of the great all times vintage Krug – the 1996 vintage is just explosive from the glass showing the perfect balance of power, richness, and freshness. Toasted nuts and brioche with touches of lemon peel, quince, and pears. It is beautifully weighted with a long elegant finish. A perfect start to the evening
Chateau L’If 2011
The first vintage of Chateau L’If was the 2010 and labeled as Chateau Leaf and not generally released. The 2011 was, in essence, the first vintage of this beautiful little property located next door to the once Thienpont family-owned Chateau Troplong Mondot. It is a work in progress for the Thienponts, but still, even in the early days, you can sense the purity of fruit and brooding nature of vineyard and the potential of where the property can go. The palate is medium-bodied with lovely grippy tannins and classic dark berry fruits and hints of graphite and tobacco – lovely opening red.
Vieux Chateau Certan 2012
Without doubt one of THE wines of the right bank in 2012. How often do we hear that about VCC? This is about as Pomerol as Pomerol gets – very fine tannins and lovely gentle fruit, purity, and elegance. It is a brilliant if at times unforgotten brilliant VCC
Vieux Chateau Certan 2001 en magnum
70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc. It is such a shame that the right bank 2001’s have been overshadowed by the hype and demand for the 2000’s. This is quite a full bodied VCC with classic dark berry and blackberry fruits, lovely spices and just the right amount of toast from oak. Once again beautifully managed tannins and lovely acidity – it is drinking beautifully, especially from magnum.
Le Pin 2001 en magnum
Just 500 cases produced, which is a shame, as it just magnificent and in most reviewers' eyes better than the 2000. Instantly you notice the levels of complexity and exotic spice trademark le Pin. It is rich and hedonistic, yet so wonderfully balanced and poised. Many thought that the low acidity might impact on the wines ability to age, but it is still fresh and alive with effortless tannins and balance. Perfect opening to the wines of Le Pin and probably the wine of the vintage in 2001.
Le Pin 1998
435 cases produced. Loaded with richness and palate feel – it is unctuous and smooth, loaded with black cherries and chocolate, again the exotic Indian spices shine through. While it lacks the poise and elegance of the 2001, it is a constantly changing and evolving glass of wine that offers something different every time you re-taste.
Le Pin 1988
1988 is another vintage overshadowed by neighbouring vintages (1989 & 1990) and in all honesty, it cannot sit alongside these two iconic years. It should, however, not be ignored. It is still a wonderful wine, but certainly not hitting the heights to follow. 1988 produced masculine and stoic wines, and this shows, but still, you have the magical velvety tannins from the terroir and spicy undertones. Again dark berry fruits and just hints of leather & roasted meat.
Le Pin 1990 en magnum
The 1990 le Pin showcases the vintage – darker and riper than the 1989, but in a way slightly more developed. Even from magnum it is seductively aromatic and sensually weighted with the all-telling exotic Indian spices, chocolate, and dark berry fruits. Secondary characters of stewed fruits and leather with touches of mocha and baked figs. This is again hedonistically drinkable and you can see why the wine world locked eyes on this small patch of Pomerol – it is in a simple word delicious!
Le Pin 1989
As many of you know, 1989 is my favourite vintage of the last 60 odd years, it is just so perfectly balanced in so many wines and just beginning to outshine the 1990. I was expecting great things from le Pin….bated breath….wow wow wow. This is aromatically immense – dark cherries, kirsch, spices and truffles it is mind-blowingly complex and constantly changing, but it is the palate that stops you for a few seconds. It has as near to perfect weight and balance as you will find in a wine, it is all-embracing with velvet tannins and totally harmonious mouthfeel. It seems to collate the very best of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Barolo in a single glass – wine of the night and one of the great wines of my life – I raise a hat to Jacques and Fiona
Interested in grabbing a bottle of Le Pin yourself? Head HERE to purchase now