One advantage of having a sizeable crew here this year is that we can cover much more ground. Conflicting appointments between Latour and Le Pin resulted in The Antique Wine Company needing to be in Pauillac and Pomerol at the same time, so I tasted at Chateau Latour.Once again Frederic Engerer has fashioned some fabulous wines in 2010. The third wine, simply called Pauillac is predictably the least complex of the trio and has a higher percentage of Merlot in it – 53% versus 47% Cabernet Sauvignon. As a result, the wine was very accessible, with easy tannins and sweet, jammy black fruit. 89 points. For a third wine it is truly excellent. However, it is not for sale En Primeur. You will have to wait until the wine is in bottle in order to purchase it.
Above: Plowing the biodynamic (experimental/test) parcel at Chateau Latour
Les Forts de Latour was a considerable step up in stature. This wine really has its own identity and is easily the quality of a good Second Growth. Indeed, the philosophy at Latour is not necessarily to make a second wine that is more accessible than the Grand Vin. The approach is to make the best possible Les Forts - in its own right. The 2010 result was a powerful, dense Les Forts that was a little bit austere compared to Lafite’s Carruades. There is a very high percentage of Cabernet in the wine and it was muscular and tannic with good primary cassis fruit and no lack of acidity. This is a wine built for the long term. 93 points.As for Latour itself, this was also a prodigious vin de garde with high alcohol, compact, ripe tannins and really expressive, layered, black fruits and minerals. Made from a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc, the balance here is brilliantly judged and there was not the slightest hint of oak. Equally, this was not as immediately appealing as Lafite or perhaps as open as Haut-Brion. But for those who love a great, classical Latour (one that expertly expresses its terroir), it will not disappoint. 96 points.
Below: Jing Dong, of our London and Hong Kong offices, taking careful tasting notes at Chateau Latour
From Latour, I took the team back to Pomerol and to the Union des Grands Crus tasting. Having heard Stephen enthuse about both Vieux Chateaux Certan and Le Pin, I was keen to see what the rest of Pomerol had to offer.In general, I was extremely impressed by these wines which backed up Stephen’s initial positive assessment. Although some of the wines we tasted didn’t quite have the terroirs of Le Pin and VCC, it is clear that Pomerol in general had done very well in 2010.The pick of my bunch were Chateau Clinet (95) and Chateau Croix de Gay (95) which outpointed both Chateau La Conseillante (94) and Chateau Gazin (91). I felt that the latter two were clearly good but lacked the near perfect concentration and depth of Petit Village and VCC. Also quite good was Chateau Beauregard (94) which seems to be punching above its weight with the 2010. Sadly, Chateau La Pointe was a little on the lighter side although the 2005 we tasted at lunch was much better - weighty, impressive and delicious.Over the next few days we’ll also be publishing a full re-cap of our week in Bordeaux, so check back here frequently.
Post by Julien Froger
(Julien was previously Director of AWC’s Bordeaux Office and currently based at AWC’s Hong Kong office).
Tags: Pauillac, Pomerol, Chateau Latour, Latour, Le Pin, Les Forts de Latour, Vieux Chateau Certan
En primeur | Travel | Wine tasting
Although I enjoy the annual En Primeur tastings in Bordeaux enormously, it can feel rather like a red wine marathon after two or three days of continuous and intensive sipping and spitting. Tasting so many tannic, adolescent wines really can become a challenge to one’s skills and requires both concentration and physical stamina. So, it is always a highlight of the week when Martin Krajewski generously throws his annual En Primeur party at Chateau de Sours, which this year was on Wednesday evening. It is the perfect opportunity to relax for a short while and catch up with old friends and each year there is a different mix of people and of course, different wines.
Above: Dusk at Chateau de Sours - Guests heading to a magnificent dinner.
On this occasion, the forty guests included Allan Cheeseman and Ken Christie, MW, who are both now consulting for various clients, as well as a few fellow merchants. A handful of journalists also usually attend, this year we shared the table with top wine communicator Matthew Jukes as well as Adam Lechmere and Amy Wislocki from Decanter Magazine.Per usual, Martin put on quite a dinner and pulled out some great wines for us to drink, rather than just taste. We quaffed a lot of the brilliant Chateau de Sours sparkling rosé in the early evening sun and then tucked into some of Martin’s excellent Chateau la Sours Blanc, which showed extremely well with the first course.But pride of place went to an Imperial of 1982 Leoville-Las-Cases which Martin had purchased from The Antique Wine Company some years ago. The wine was drinking beautifully, so too were the numerous bottles of 2001 Figeac, which, by the end of the evening I suspect we drank an entire case of. Just to finish things off I brought along an Imperial of 2002 Chateau d’Yquem which enabled us all to retire with a sweet taste on our palate. As ever, it was quite the evening and the best possible mix of business and pleasure.
Above: The end-of the evening at Chateau de Sours - 1982 Las Cases and 2002 d'Yquem (Note: Conseillante and Mouton had been consumed earlier in the week.)
Despite the late night, we managed an early start on Thursday morning in yet more splendid spring sunshine. Our first appointment was at Chateau Le Pin in Pomerol, where Jacques Thienpont was as warm and welcoming as ever. The last time I saw Jacques was in London when, quite coincidentally, we happened to be in the same restaurant for dinner. As we parked the car in front of this modest property, I couldn’t help but notice the extent to which the new cellars, designed by a Belgian architect, have progressed since I was last at Le Pin. Jacques is hoping to have them ready by June, which can only add to the extraordinary quality coming out of this extraordinary property.Before we tasted the 2010 Le Pin, I asked Jacques how he felt the vintage had gone. ‘It was a very good vintage,’ Jacques replied. ‘We had a bit of coulure and millerandage but August was dry and not too hot. By September, we needed some rain and when it came in September it really saved the vintage. I then took the decision to pick very soon after that even though the grapes were still a bit damp. Some people chose to wait and pick later, but I am happy I didn’t.’The 2010 Le Pin exudes effortless power and concentration, not to mention deep colour, fabulous freshness and pinpoint acidity. This is a textbook Le Pin with 14.2% alcohol, ripe fleshy tannins and superb purity of sweet black fruit, concentrated minerals and a sumptuous finish. The wine is not as flamboyant as 2009 but it is every bit as good and will age and develop beautifully - of that, there is no doubt. 98 points.Of course, Le Pin is beyond boutique and just produces a tiny amount of wine each year that collectors fight to get their hands on. This year, the production is likely to be about 5-6,000 bottles. Demand will be as strong as ever for this exceptional wine.However, for those like me who would like to taste Jacques’ handiwork more regularly, I can report that he is producing a new St. Emilion Grand Cru, starting from 2010, having bought seven hectares of land adjacent to Troplong-Mondot last year. He is not going to sell the wine En Primeur this year but will instead wait to see how it develops. Nevertheless, he is extremely optimistic about its quality and given the terroir of the location, it will surely be another star in the making. Also, he told me that he has decided on a name for the new wine. It is to be wittily and cleverly called L’If – French for “yew tree”. Le Pin, (French for pine tree), was so named because of the pine tree outside the old chai.Before we left, Jacques also kindly poured the 2008 Le Pin for us to compare with 2010. The wine was almost Burgundian on the nose and had lovely fresh, sweet raspberry and strawberry fruit, full of finesse and elegance. The wine was delicious and altogether more delicate and fine boned than both 2009 and 2010. For me it is typical of the vintage but perhaps might not have the longevity of its younger siblings?From Le Pin, it was a very short drive to visit another Thienpont – Alexandre - at Vieux Chateau Certan. Already, rumours had circulated that VCC had made something very special in 2010 and I was keen to see if the wine lived up to its billing. First, Alexandre explained how the small yield had produced such perfectly concentrated grapes. ‘Everything was perfect – we had good alcohol, ripe (but not over-ripe) grapes and superb acidity.’ For those of you who like the technical figures, that translated into 14.5% alcohol, a score of 90 on the tannin index, 3.3g/L of total acidity and 3.7pH.
Below: Vieux Chateau Certan's Alexandre Thienpont. Producer of one of the very best wines of 2010
‘What is remarkable is that we achieved such results twice in a row. Although, I would say that 2010 is even more concentrated than 2009,’ he added. For me these two vintages are better than 89 and 90. You have to go back to 1949 and 1950, which were superb in Pomerol, to match 2009 and 2010. These sort of vintages really only happen once in your lifetime. So to get two in succession will make it very difficult for us to upstage in 2011!’Again, the key to the success of this wine was not extracting too much. ‘We pumped over with great care, more often but much more gently,’ Alexandre revealed. ‘And we were constantly tasting it to make sure that we never pushed it too far.’Is the hype surrounding VCC justified? The answer is an unequivocal yes – because this is certainly one of the wines of the vintage. The wine has everything – poise, balance, structure, stunning damson fruit, length, seamless tannins and a waft of acidity which lifts the wine into a different dimension. 99 points. Put this on your wish-list as soon as possible. In Day 4, Part 2, coming later today, Julien Froger covers another foray back to the Left Bank, this time to Chateau Latour...
Tags: Le Pin, Chateau de Sours, Jacques Thienpont, Pomerol, St Emilion, Vieux Chateau Certan
Often, in our mission to provide our clients with the highest level of service possible, we must verify the legitimacy of bottles. Our staunch anti-fraud stance has been well-documented in the past and we have taken many unprecedented measures to ensure that we only conduct transactions with wines of traceable provenance. This position is exemplified by our continued support of the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Bordeaux which we partnered with to develop a series of tests using PIXE and Caesium 137 analysis to verify the age of both glass bottles and the wine contained therein.
Here is a bit of further insight into how this verification process begins. This week we were approached by a private individual regarding our interest in selling an Imperial of 1945 Petrus. The first step in any potential transaction like this is that we must verify, to the very best of our abilities, the legitimacy of the wine.
Upon receiving the bottle at our London offices, we began a visual inspection. The bottle provided the following clues:
1.) Label – The label was clearly photo-copied. This was easy to identify because the visual ‘texture’ lines on the front of the label were neither tactile, nor did they press through to the back-side of the label (which was peeling in one corner so both sides could easily be inspected). It is important to note that simply because the label is photo-copied does not automatically mean the wine is fraudulent. In the 1960s and 1970s many chateaux and negociants photo-copied labels as replacements when they were missing the originals.
2.) Capsule – The capsule was worn, but showed no signs of seepage or much physical deterioration. It was somewhat discoloured and the foil had clearly been twisted out of shape at some point. The capsule was also imprint-branded as Petrus and had ‘Mis En Bouteilles Au Chateau’ printed on the side.
3.) Cork – We were unable to see the cork because it was entirely hidden by the capsule, however, the cork was pushing/bulging slightly.
4.) Additional Labels – There were two further labels on the bottle, one at the base of the neck (front) reading ‘Caves du Chapon Fin – Bordeaux’ (restaurant) and one on the back reading ‘Selection Alexis Lichine’ (negociant).
After the above observations were made, it was established that the next step would be to carefully cut the capsule to reveal the sides of the cork. This would allow us to verify whether the cork was chateau-branded or not.
Upon receiving explicit permission from the owner, Julien Froger, head of our Bordeaux and Hong Kong offices, served as chief surgeon for the operation. Despite carefully peeling back three-quarters of the capsule, Julien was unable to clearly see any identifying markings on the cork.
This leads us to believe that the bottle may not be genuine. However, the verdict as it stands now is that we still do not know. The next step is that we are going to see if the owner would like the wine sent to the Bordeaux lab for further analysis.
Tags: The Antique Wine Company, Petrus, Wine Verification, Fine Wine, Imperial, Large Format, Bordeaux, Pomerol, Bottle Fraud, Lable, Cork, Capsule
An afternoon with Jacques Thienpont, Proprietor, Le Pin.
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Listen to the PODCAST
It’s a lovely sunny day in downtown Pomerol, I’m standing in the shade of two pine trees, in front of a modest, slightly dilapidated house, which can’t really be described as a chateau, as Jacques Thienpont arrives on his bicyclette to allow me to taste his 2009 Le Pin.
This is my first meeting with JT, a man who not only has been very successful but clearly has a sense of humour. He speaks about his plans to demolish the modest little house beside the two Pine Trees, and build a swimming pool and tennis court. Its only when he mentions that from here he intends to host the Pomerol International Tennis Masters that I realise the truth is intermingled with humour!
We step into the chais of the winery containing 29 barrels of what is no doubt the most valuable 2009 merlot on the planet and he assembles a special Antique Wine Company blend. Sadly only three glasses of this cuvee will ever be available, one for me, one for my colleague Julien, and one for himself, and we are going to drink it now. “I purchased a spitune but after a few days I left it at home because no-one used it” said Jacques! M Thienpont emphasises the contrast between different barrels, remarking upon the almost daily changes at this stage of the wines life, comparing this to that of the female temperament, although he consistently complements his wife Fiona’s winemaking abilities and enthusiasm for the management of Le Pin.
At Le Pin fermentation is carried out in small stainless steel tanks with the malolactic fermatation in barrique. Historically the 225 ltr new barriques have been supplied by Seguin Moreau, but in 2009 for the first time the boss at Taransaud has convinced them to experiment with one of their barells. This tonellerie based in Cognac is very popular in burgundy, but seen less in Bordeaux. JT comments that he expects the effect of their oak to be more but still refined, whereas his Seguin M barrels tend to become almost completely diffused after their first 6 months.
The first vintage of Le Pin was 1979, it was the debut of the “garage wines” followed by Valandraud. Initially the vineyard was only 1 hectare and subsequently expanded to its current 2ha20. I asked Jacques how Le Pin has managed to succeed in being recognised as similar in status to the Medoc 1st growths, he interrupted me to point out “ it’s not gone to my head – it’s the result of constant uninterrupted quality that has been recognised by the market”. JT insists he doesn’t interfere with the market, but keeps wine making simple, no cooling or heating system in the winery and just lets the wine do its own thing.
In 2009 the harvest took place on two days, 22nd and 25th September (after the rain). The wine has a surprisingly low level of alcohol at 13.5%, especially in comparison with other Merlot wines in this vintage. According to Thienpont this is entirely the result of terroir and the earths gravel content, on the gentle slope that provides drainage.
The 2009 shows a dense purple colour, solid to the rim, tannins are so approachable, plenty of tannin but no aggression or masculinity. “Women love this wine, but personally I prefer wine that I have to flight with a little” remarks Thienpont. In the mouth the wine envelopes the palate with super-concentrated sweet black fruit, exotic, and leaving this rich coating around the mouth which seems to go on for ever.
Thienpont is also currently experimenting with three barrels of wine he has made on some nearby land. A few ares he purchased nearby but this won’t be included in Le Pin. He only sells this wine to some of his chums in Belgium as generic Pomerol.
I asked Thienpont how he felt about the fact that his wine sold for such astronomical amounts of money, in particular his 1982 vintage which the Antique Wine Company last sold a case of for £50,000. He compares his wine to artistic masterpieces, and although he finds it difficult to identify his favourite of the 29 vintages produced so far, (“if you have twelve children, then how can you say one is your favourite”? he remarks), and he goes on to say that his first three vintages, he regrettably sold in their youth to repay the money his bank loaned to him to buy the vineyard. “I wish I had kept the wine and the debt, and sold just a few cases to repay them years later”. It is certainly interesting how the appreciating value of this precious liquid has outpaced the cost of borrowed money so dramatically.
Talking further about how many of the older vintages might still be on the market, Jacques remarked that he only has one bottle of the 1982 in his cellar, I am still unsure if he was joking or serious! He does admit to having more bottles of his first 1979 vintage, although he suggests it was his “draft attempt” and might not be the best example of Le Pin to buy.
Le Pin received more visitors to taste its wine en-primeur this year than usual, especially from Asia and some from China. According to Jacques, the Chinese are becoming accustomed to giving Le Pin as gifts, especially at the highest political levels. The Chinese gift Lafite to one another regularly, but if it’s for an important politician or official, then apparently the equally pronounceable Le Pin is the wine to give.
We stepped outside onto the ploughed piece of land designated for ”proposed swimming pool and tennis court that is so close to Jacques heart ”. Jacques confirmed to me that he has purchased land in St Emilion, a rumour that I had heard recently. He said that he chose the site adjacent to Troplong Mondot, for two reasons; the first being because he thinks Cabernet Franc will be an increasingly important ingredient in overcoming the consequences of global warming, and secondly because he will be in good company! No doubt Christine Valette, proprietor of Troplong, will feel the same!
After a most interesting, informative and entertaining hour, Jacques set of on his journey home, in the same modest way in which he arrived, on his bicyclette!
For Decanter's follow-up on this story and the latest wine news, updated daily, go to decanter.com http://www.decanter.com/news/297422.html
© Copyright 2010 Stephen Williams
Tags: le, pin, thienpont, visit, stephen, williams, chateau, pomerol
En primeur | General
Stephen Williams, Founder and CEO
Stephen Williams began trading as a wine merchant in 1982 and wishes he had stocked his cellar with Château Pétrus on day one. Since founding The Antique Wine Company, Stephen has built The Antique Wine Group into an organisation with clients in 63 countries and a global network of offices, representatives and business groups. Regarded as one of the world’s leading experts in fine and rare wines, he has created some of the greatest wine cellars and collections in existence – in châteaux, palaces, wineries, hotels and private residences across Europe, Asia and North America. As a popular commentator on the wine industry, fine wine investment and the global wine market, Stephen is frequently quoted by both the UK and international press corps. Along with his regular lectures at AWC Wine Academy, this blog offers a behind-the-scenes view into the world of fine wine.
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