Why it makes the Decanter hall of fame...
Wine Legend: Le Pin, Pomerol 1982, Bordeaux, France
Bottles produced 3,600
Composition 100% Merlot
Release price $400 per case
Price today £9,512 per bottle
A legend because…
The first vintage made by Jacques Thienpont had been in 1979, and was sold cheaply. Before then the wine had been sold extensively in Belgium, but was not widely known. Once the outstanding quality of the 1982 was recognised prices shot up on the secondary market.
In 1982, Le Pin consisted of a single hectare, next to a pine tree. Jacques Thienpont, from a Belgian family with extensive interests in the wine trade in Bordeaux, had recognised the quality of the soil some years earlier. The original idea was to incorporate the parcel into Vieux Château Certan close by, but when that didn’t work out, Jacques and his father and uncle contrived to buy the vineyard in 1979; it later fell into Jacques’ ownership, with a small share being held by Alexandre Thienpont of Vieux Château Certan. In 1984 Jacques was able to buy a second hectare, but today the total area under vine still stands at a modest 2.7ha.
Bordeaux enjoyed a superb growing season; there was some rain in September, probably beneficial, but much of the Merlot had already been picked by then. The lush, full-bodied wines were criticised by some as too Napa-like in style, and indeed some wines, picked at high yields, are now in decline. Many others, though mature, are still going strong.
Le Pin’s vines are located on one of the highest sectors of the Pomerol plateau. Its neighbours include Vieux Château Certan, Petit Village and Trotanoy. The soil is essentially gravelly, although there are patches of sand and clay on an iron-rich base. The gravel ensures excellent drainage. Despite the small size of Le Pin, variations in the soil result in varying bunch sizes and dates of maturation. In 1982, one third of the vines had been planted as recently as 1978 – a remarkably high proportion for a wine of this grandeur.
Jacques Thienpont was taught how to make wine by his uncle Léon, and he has seen no reason to veer from that tried-and-tested path. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel. If he requires more concentration, he may bleed some tanks, and in vintages when acidity is low, he will return some very ripe stalks to the tanks. Extraction is by traditional pumpovers. The malolactic fermentation has always been conducted in barriques, not out of conviction that it results in better wine, but because in the old cellars there was nowhere else to put the wine for this purpose. Le Pin spends between 14 and 16 months in new oak, with traditional rackings; it is bottled without filtration.
Michael Broadbent tasted the wine in November 1983, finding it ‘rich and fruity’, and confessed he had no idea this was an infant cult wine. In 2001 he tasted it again: ‘Glorious nose, very distinctive; sweet, soft, velvety, full of fruit. Fragrant.’
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