Chateau Le Pin
|Listed Wines||Le Pin|
|Annual Production (Grand Vin)||400-600 cases|
|Interesting Fact||One of the smallest and newest editions to the great winemaking estates of Bordeaux, Le Pin is has nonetheless established itself as one of the most desirable and highly-valued fine wine brands in the region.|
The Le Pin brand is one built on bedrock of the twin factors of excellence and rarity. Alexandre Thienpont, estate manager is a perfectionist in the truest sense of the word. The estate’s small size means it can be tended like a garden and only the very best results will do- there was no vintage at all in 2003 because Thienpont was not satisfied with the quality of the harvest. The wine produced here in even smaller quantities than those of Lafleur is nonpareil to any others in the region in terms of its giddy rise to international fame. Only Petrus, which it is oft compared to, and which produces six times the quantity of wine in an average year, can command higher prices.
Considered a predecessor of the Garagiste movement, it is undoubtedly the rarity of the wines produced here which stimulates initial demand and ensures it will only rise over the long-term. This is especially true of vintages that earn particularly high critic scores, such as the recent Le Pin 2009, which garnered the coveted ‘perfect’ 100-point from Robert Parker and currently trades at over £27,000 per case. The 1982 vintage, the same that propelled this estate into the spotlight, was the last Le Pin to be awarded the same score. It is now of drinking age and being traded for sums in excess of £80,000, representing price appreciation of 182%. The wines of this estate may be considered somewhat of a safe haven (to those who can find them!) in most years given the guaranteed demand that arises through limited availability.
It could be argued that Le Pin was ‘made’ by critics, who from very early on were raving about the rare quality of the wine produced on this tiny vineyard in the heart of Pomerol and thanks to whom the chateau became well-established in very little time. Robert Parker has described the wines as often having a ‘gaudy’ character and Neal Martin characterises them as ‘hedonistic’. It has been fashionable to compare Le Pin with Petrus because of the appellation and high prices they both share but really they are quite different. Le Pin is more open, generous and fruity earlier compared with the characteristically masculine and structured Petrus. Whilst the 1982 vintage was the one that put Le Pin in the spotlight, the estate has once again attained a perfect Parker-rating in the form of the 2009, about which Robert Parker Jr. positively raved:
“Exceptional purity and a blockbuster nose of mocha, black cherry liqueur, mulberries and plums are followed by an extravagantly rich wine that seems to have a nearly endless finish. Truly haute couture of Merlot, so to speak, this wine has a finish that goes well past a minute, with wonderfully sweet tannins and a provocative, concentrated, broad mouthfeel that is remarkably luxurious. This is amazing stuff! It should drink well for 20-25 years. This is undeniably the greatest Le Pin I have tasted at such an infantile age.”
Robert Parker Jr. (100pts)
Le Pin dates back only to 1924 - a real spring chicken compared to neighbours like L’Eglise and Lafleur who have histories spanning centuries - when it was owned by the Laubie family who sold wine under a generic Pomerol label. The first true ‘Le Pin’ vintage was not until 1979, when it was purchased by the Thienpont family, a dynasty whose legacy is woven through wine making estates across France and Belgium.
Jacques Thienpont added a slight tract of land to the already tiny property in the 1980s but aside from that, most changes at Le Pin concerned the improvement of the land and buildings, which had been rather neglected under its previous owners. It was perhaps Robert Parker though, who ‘made’ Le Pin. His glowing praise for the 1982 vintage brought the estate to the attention to a legion of discerning wine collectors and in very little time, the wine produced here bore a price tag befitting a truly luxury product.
Chateau Le Pin Pricing
Highest rated vintages for Chateau Le Pin
Exceptional purity and a blockbuster nose of mocha, black cherry liqueur, mulberries and plums are followed by an extravagantly rich wine that seems to have a nearly endless finish. Truly haute couture of Merlot, so to speak, this wine has a finish that goes well past a minute, with wonderfully sweet tannins and a provocative, concentrated, broad mouthfeel that is remarkably luxurious. This is amazing stuff! It should drink well for 20-25 years. This is undeniably the greatest Le Pin I have tasted at such an infantile age. There are about 500 cases of this wine, which is made by the Thienpont family, the owners of Vieux Chateau Certan. One hundred percent Merlot, it continues to possess the exoticism of previous vintages, but the oak at present is far better crafted and integrated than in the debut vintage of 1979.
Probably not a perfect wine for the classicist, this flamboyant, exotic, lavishly rich, concentrated, low acid fruit bomb exhibits remarkable aromatic complexity (espresso roast, roasted herbs, caramel, chocolate, and oodles of sweet plum, fig, and berry fruit). It is very jammy and incredibly low in acidity, but it is still intact, and the dense plum/garnet color is just beginning to show some lightening at the edge. This is another 1982 that I thought would have one, possibly two feet in the grave at age 27, but lo and behold, it is still going strong. Release price: ($400.00/case)
Made from 100% Merlot (one percent for each rating point I've assigned), this wine is explosively rich and compelling. Dense plum/purple, it boasts the remarkable delineation and freshness that are hallmarks of this vintage. From a much smaller production than normal because of Merlot's poor flowering, the very hot, dry growing and harvest conditions, this is a super-endowed, very rich Le Pin with its exotic new oak largely buried behind its extravagant concentration, power and richness. I don't know what its natural alcohol level is, but I suspect it is pushing 15% in 2010. Rich, tannic, but exceptionally well-endowed, this is a sublime example of Merlot at its very finest. Forget it for 5-7 years (which is somewhat unusual for Le Pin) and drink it over the following three decades.
The 1990 Le Pin has more in common with the 1982 than most wines of this vintage. This wine exhibits concentrated fig, blackberry, creme de cassis, kirsch, roasted coffee, herb, and spice box characteristics, and incredible amounts of glycerin as well as velvety tannins. Still tasting like an adolescent, it rocks and rolls across the palate in a glorious manner. Anticipated maturity: now-2025. Release price: ($5000.00/case)
A tremendous effort, this 500-case cuvee (one of Bordeaux's original garage operations) is even better in 2001 than it was in 2000. Its deep ruby/plum/purple color is accompanied by an extraordinary perfume of creme de cassis, cherry liqueur, plums, licorice, caramel, and sweet toast. This flamboyant, opulently textured, rich, concentrated Pomerol is a brilliant success as well as one of the wines of the vintage for 2001. Its low acidity and extraordinary ripeness suggest early drinkability, but it has proven it can last for 18-20 years.
This is a slight downgrade for this wine, but I suspect it will bounce back, as it clearly needs more time. It was more reserved than I thought it would be, as Le Pin tends to be one of the more extravagantly rich, flamboyant wines of Pomerol. The one time I tasted the 2000, it had a dense ruby/purple color, aggressive new oak, loads of coconut, vanilla, and spice box, enormous concentration and thickness, but this is an estate where I thought their subsequent year, 2001, was an even better wine. This wine displays some firm tannins in the finish and should be forgotten for another 5-6 years. So much for Le Pin not aging well. This one has at least 25 years left in it.
A slightly firmer, more structured wine than the 1990, with similarly low acid but more noticeable tannin, the color remains a very healthy saturated ruby/purple. The nose needs more coaxing and offers up noted of coconut, roasted herbs, jus du viande, along with plenty of black currant and sweet cherry fruit with nicely integrated toasty oak. The wine has similarly high levels of glycerin to the 1990, but less accessibility, and more structure and possibly power. This is a remarkable wine, and certainly one of the great vintages for Le Pin. Anticipated maturity: 2005-2022. Last tasted, 12/01.
There are 580 cases of the exotic, flamboyant 2004 Le Pin. Its dense plum/ruby color is accompanied by sweet aromas of kirsch, cassis, smoke, earth, and roasted herbs. Super-opulent for the vintage, it possesses wonderful fruit and glycerin, medium to full body, and a fleshy personality. It should drink well young, yet age nicely for two decades or more. The Pomerol of the vintage?
Caramelized fruit, coffee bean, espresso, black cherry liqueur, licorice and spice aromas jump from the glass of this dark ruby/plum-colored wine. Concentrated and silky-textured, this full-bodied, voluptuous wine is a brilliant example of the 2011 vintage. Give it 2-4 more years in the bottle and enjoy it over the next 15 or more.
Some of the hard tannins this wine possessed early in life have sloughed off to reveal a wine that has a stunning nose of roasted herbs, caramel, smoke, barbecue notes along with fruitcake, blackberry, and black cherry jam, and a bit of white chocolate also entering the smorgasbord of scents. Full-bodied, with low acidity but still moderately high tannin, still a tightly knit, very concentrated wine that is surprisingly structured and backward for Le Pin. It is also a bit more massive than most vintages. Anticipated maturity: 2008-2025. Last tasted, 5/02.