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Saturday 1 November 2014

LUXURY: LE PIN – Small but perfectly formed

20th December, 2007 by db_staff - This article is over multiple pages: 1 2 3 4 5

A modest family man, Jacques Thienpont has no plans to enlarge his tiny Château Le Pin vineyard – or to modernise the traditional winemaking techniques of this most sought-after label. By Margaret Rand

07_12_thienpont.jpgSome years ago Jacques Thienpont said to me that if he had a case of Le Pin 1982 he’d swap it for two cases of Vieux Château Certan. I asked him the other day if that were still so. Yes, he said, absolutely; in fact not so long ago he’d swapped three cases of 1981 Le Pin for 10 cases of VCC, and everybody was happy.

Jacques has always seemed to regard the sky-high prices fetched by Le Pin as faintly ridiculous – “excessive” is the word he uses. The 2005 and 2006 both came out at e500 per bottle ex-cellars and, he says, the market likes it because it continues to rise after release. Yes, when he bought the land he expected the wine to be good, but he didn’t expect it to be a cult. And one gets the impression he was looking the other way when it happened.

The story of how he started Le Pin is fairly well documented: Thienpont’s uncle Gérard was running VCC and had his eye on a single hectare of Merlot planted on clay, sand and gravel next to his vineyard. He wanted the family to buy it, but the family said, more or less, “One million francs for that? You’ve got 14 hectares already. What do you want more for?“ So Gérard said to Jacques, okay, you buy it then. “At first I said, ‘my grandfather bought vineyards. Why should I?’” But buy it he did, going thirds with his father and Gérard. And so Le Pin was born.

Jacques, unlike most buyers in Bordeaux these days, was not awash with money. For that first vintage, 1979, he could just about afford a single stainless-steel tank, and he ran the wine into barriques for the malolactic (which nobody did in those days) because there was nowhere else to put it. He couldn’t even afford a concrete floor at first, and he had to invest in equipment – a destalking machine, a pump – gradually, year by year.

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