Chateau Le Pin
Annual Production (Grand Vin)
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.