2005 marked a monumental year in Bordeaux. Not only was it the third of the five, supremely great Bordeaux vintages of the 2000s, it was also the vintage that really ignited the global demand – pushed by a growing consumer base in Asia - for the region’s finest wines. In order to allow our clients to gain greater insight into the wines from this year, we recently welcomed Stephen Brook, one of the world’s leading experts on the region, as well as noted wine author and wine competition judge, to lead us through eight examples from this stellar vintage.
Prior to the vintage horizontal, Stephen and our guests enjoyed a Champagne reception with a selection of hot and cold canapés, including beef carpaccio crostini with rocket, parmesan, crème fraiche and truffle oil, pumpkin tortellini with sage butter, and salmon, quail egg and hollandaise baskets, as well as mini salmon fishcakes with tartar sauce. Our in-house chef certainly outdid herself on this occasion!
To start things off, Stephen reviewed some of his own notes on the 2005 vintage for both the Left and Right Banks, as well as for Sauternes, explaining that for each of these areas, "2005 stood out, from the very beginning and from the very earliest sampling sessions, as one of the best Bordeaux years in recent memory."
Right Bank Wine 1: 2005 Château Gazin Wine 2: 2005 Vieux Château Certan Wine 3: 2005 Château Trottevieille Left Bank Wine 4: 2005 Château Beychevelle Wine 5: 2005 Château Léoville Poyferré Wine 6: 2005 Château Palmer Sauternes Wine 7: 2005 Château Climens Wine 8: 2005 Château d’Yquem
The line-up started beautifully, with Château Gazin receiving a warm reception. Stephen commented that the estate’s plots are almost completely dominated by Merlot vines and that the land is of such high quality and is so ideal for the variety that in the 1970s, 4.5 ha of Gazin’s property was actually sold off to famous, neighbouring estate, Château Pétrus. Many people indicated their surprise at just how developed the Gazin already seemed for a 2005, however, Stephen felt that the wine still had significant potential to age well and that there remained a fine future ahead of it.
Despite being located less than 500 metres away from Gazin, Vieux Château Certan, the night’s second wine, had a completely different aroma and flavour profile, with greater wood influence - 100% new oak is used – as well as an unusual, herbaceous character with hints of dark chocolate and smoke. Despite VCC’s justifiable fame, overall, it was actually the third and final Right Bank wine, the 2005 Château Trottevieille, which was the favourite of the regional selections, with Stephen exclaiming that he felt it had, "really impressive length and that the acidity and structure would to allow it to go the distance."
Moving across the river and on to the Left Bank, it was the 2005 Château Beychevelle that led off the flight. Stephen explained how the ship with the dragon head on its prow - that emblem that appears on the wine’s label - helped sales of Beychevelle soar in certain markets, particularly in China, with the upswing in demand increasing dramatically around the time of the 2005 release. Interestingly, the 2005 vintage was also the first year that Beychevelle did not utilise the process of chaptalisation – this is a winemaking technique by which additional sugar is added to the just-crushed grapes in order to increase the potential alcohol that will result from their fermentation.
While the Château Léoville-Poyferré was certainly well constructed and tasty, for Stephen, as well as for the majority of the guests, it was the sixth wine, Château Palmer, which stole the show. The estate is named after General Charles Palmer, who acquired the property in 1814. Situated just a stone’s through from First Growth Château Margaux, the vineyards of Palmer are farmed completely organically, which is still a rare occurrence in Bordeaux.
After guests had a chance to go back and re-sample all of the red wines and discuss their notes with Stephen, everyone moved on to the final two wines of the night – the 2005 Château Climens and the 2005 Château d’Yquem.
The freshness and elegance of the Climens, which had a wealth of beguiling and attractive, floral notes was absolutely invigorating – particularly because the evening’s weather was quite warm and the bottle was nicely chilled. The finish on this wine was strikingly long and Stephen said that he’d wager that it could be placed in a cellar and enjoyed in 50 years’ time, without any issue.
In comparison, Château d’Yquem displayed significantly more texture and a notable creaminess on the palate. However, the acidity was so spectacular that it didn’t come off as overly heavy or cloying in any way. The delicious flavours of marmalade and crème brûlée that will appear significantly and will dominate the palate profile as this wine continues to age were only just starting to show themselves.
With everyone in agreement that 2005 was an exceptional vintage, by popular vote, it was decided that the Red Wine of The Night was the 2005 Château Palmer and that the favourite between the two Sauternes was easily the 2005 Château d’Yquem.
In October we will be welcoming Steven Spurrier, author, judge and wine educator, to present a ‘parallel horizontal’ (the 1998 vintage versus the 2007 vintage from four different estates) of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Mr. Spurrier will also be bringing a special bottle from his own personal cellar to share with everyone at the end of the evening. This event is going to be quite popular, so ensure you book your tickets early. We hope to see you there.
Tags: Bordeaux, AWC Wine Academy, Chateau Palmer, Chateau d'Yquem, Chateau Beychevelle, Chateau Trottevieille, Chateau Leoville-Poyferre, Chateau Climens, Barsac, Sauternes, Margaux, Pomerol
Education | Wine tasting
Last week, we were delighted to welcome Henri-Bruno de Coincy to present wines from his estate, Château Belle-Brise, which is one of Pomerol’s greatest secrets. This tiny, 2 hectare property has a miniscule, annual production of just 800 bottles (similar to neighbouring, Pomerol stand-out, Château Le Pin).
Due to the small output and the fact that they do not sell any of their wines via En Primeur, in most vintages Château Belle-Brise can barely satisfy the market demand from their pre-existing, long-time customers. Principally this includes some of the world’s greatest, Michelin starred restaurants in locations such as Monaco, Switzerland and Japan, as well as the Élysée Palace in Paris and Hôtel Matignon, the official residence of the French Prime Minister.
During the welcome reception, guests were treated to glasses of Franck Bonville Blanc de Blancs Champagne and canapés prepared by AWC’s in-house chef, all of which featured local, seasonal ingredients. These included such delights as warm asparagus, goat cheese and black olive tartlets with red pepper pesto, pork and fennel sausage rolls and mini shepherds pies.
Reflecting the artisanal and family focused approach that Henri takes with his estate, it was lovely to see him arrive with his two daughters and wife for the masterclass.
As the guests took their seats, he greeted everyone warmly and began his very personal and illustrious presentation of the Château’s history and production – entirely in French. Luckily, AWC’s Purchasing Manager, Robert Hankey, was there to provide an excellent and continuous English translation.
Following the introduction, guests enjoyed a vertical of the 8 most recent vintages, aside from 2003 due to it being completely sold out – even Henri said he has none left in his library cellar:
Guests remarked that the purity of each vintage was outstanding and that the varying influences of the weather and harvest shone through on the palate. The 2010 was bold, with very ripe, dark fruit flavours and firm tannins, while the 2009 displayed a more elegant palate of sweet, red fruits and softer tannins, being quite reminiscent of a very fine Burgundy from a warm vintage.
Henri spoke at length about his transition from the banking industry to the world of fine wine, as he first settled in Bas-Armagnac – where his family has made Armagnac for over 700 years at La Fontaine de Coincy - and he worked on reuniting more than 30 separate plots of land that had been sold off over the generations to re-form the original Domaine de Toujun estate, which now produces a still white wine.
He confessed his passion and commitment to all things natural and to the concept of complete terroir expression. Through his acquisition of Château Belle-Brise in 1991 he settled in Pomerol and adopted the same methods that he had already been practicing in Armagnac. Although many Left Bank estates have already done so, Henri is now the first producer in Pomerol to reintroduce the use of horses to work the vines.
While the guests enjoyed discussing the intricacies between the various, recent vintages, a show of hands proved 2005 was the clear wine of the night.
One of the guests commented that, “I thought the wines were very good and [I now] understand the Burgundy comparison…the 2009 and 2005 were my favourites (along with the 2008)…the 2005, in my opinion, was the shining star, [with] really good structure, complexity, excellent length and balance...it was a surprising tasting for me because I haven’t been too excited about Bordeaux recently but it proved to me that I shouldn’t forget them…also that good Pomerol is really classy and can have excellent texture and weight.”
Following the presentation, attendees revisited the wines alongside freshly prepared polenta with mushroom ragout and slow roasted lamb shoulder served over sweet potato mash.
If you’re interested in purchasing selections from Château Belle-Brise, please contact us directly as AWC is now the exclusive agent, importer and distributor for the estate in the UK.
We also have some fantastic events coming up here at AWC Wine Academy, including a 2005 Bordeaux Horizontal: Fine Wine Seminar with Stephen Brook on 23rd July, and a WSET Level 2 Certified Course running between 21-23 August. We hope to welcome you to one of these evenings, or to one of our many other upcoming events in the near future.
Tags: Château Belle-Brise Vertical, AWC Academy, Henri-Bruno de Coincy, en primeur, le pin, vertical, pomerol, bordeaux, wine tasting, Burgundy, vintage, wine events, armagnac
Last week, Jean-Michel Laporte, Director of Château La Conseillante, flew over to London from his property in Pomerol to present a fantastic vertical of the estate’s wines.
As guests settled into their seats following a wonderful Champagne and canapé reception that featured seared scallops with cauliflower purée and pomegranate and orange salsa, rare roast beef with caponata served on bruschetta, and pumpkin, thyme and gorgonzola tartin, Jean-Michel kindly commented to the audience that AWC Wine Academy was one of the best tasting rooms he had ever seen, anywhere in the world.
Taking guests on a virtual tour of the region of Pomerol, Jean-Michel began by speaking passionately about the region and by telling guests that if there was to be one thing that they should take away from the evening, he preferred it be this – that because it straddles the appellation border, Château La Conseillante is, in reality, actually a blend of both Saint-Émilion and Pomerol, something which is quite unusual amongst the châteaux of the region.
As a long standing family operation, it is now the fifth generation that is in charge of the property. The family’s overall goal is still to preserve the style of the wines and the estate’s history and to continue crafting the wines with the same ‘soul’ of La Conseillante, as has been done on the property for several centuries now.
Following the introduction, guests enjoyed the following, eight vintage vertical:
The 2010 was described by several guests as having a more spectacular finish than the 2009, although both were vibrant and complex. Jean-Michel said he finds that he, personally, now enjoys the 2010 more than the 2009 despite them both being wines that are approachable quite early in their lives.
As for pair two, the tannins present in the 2008 were not as prominent as those in 2005. Interestingly though, both wines have been rated similarly by critics, with the 2008 scoring 95 points from Robert Parker at The Wine Advocate and the 2005 scoring a 96. Despite having this in common, the difference between the two wines was certainly noticeable, as the 2005 was significantly more balanced and offered an increased roundness in the mouth, more explosive aromas, pronounced but smooth tannins, better acidity and a greater sense of finesse.
The third pair, 2001 and 2000, presented the room with the biggest challenge. Attendees found it hard to choose their favourite of the two, with both wines receiving an outstanding reception. Jean-Michel explained that when he first arrived at La Conseillante, he asked to taste a vertical of the wines in order to fully immerse himself in the history of the estate. At that time it was the 2000 which stole the show for him. However, in the intervening years, his personal preference has now changed to the 2001, which he believes is the wine that best reflects the ‘true identity of La Conseillante.’
The 1996 vintage in the final pairing, Jean-Michel confessed, is more widely known as a superlative vintage on the Left Bank. However, he noted that 1996 was also very successful at La Conseillante specifically and it was very nice to compare it against the 1998 as the ageing of the two wines seems to have taken a similar trajectory. Both wines showed nuanced and layered fragrances and flavours of finely aged claret, however, it was the 1996 which seemed to edge out the 1998 as it had a slightly more expressive and floral nose.
After an interesting, insightful and highly enjoyable evening, attendees indulged in bowls of lamb, rosemary and black olive stew which was served over roasted garlic mash, as well as warm, puy lentil salad with celeriac, hazelnuts and mint, while they continued enjoying their favourite vintages. Ultimately, it was quite hard to decide on the Wine of The Night, as the room was very much split between the 1998, 2000 and 2001.
We have some fantastic events coming up here at AWC Wine Academy, including a Château Haut-Bailly Vertical with Veronique Sanders, Director of Château Haut-Bailly on 8th July, and a Super Tuscan Rarities: Special Italian Masterclass with Walter Speller (Italian Wine Correspondent for Jancis Robinson, MW) on 10th July. We hope to welcome you to one of these, or one of our many other upcoming events very soon.
Tags: La Conseillante, AWC Wine Academy, Pomerol
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.
Listen to the PODCAST
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.
Get notified when a new post is published.