Wine from Jacques Thienpont’s new St-Emilion project will be on pour at this May’s Masters of Wine Symposium alongside an impressive selection of labels from MW winemakers.
The L’If label, designed by Neil Tully MW from Amphora wine packaging specialists
In a world first, 20 MW winemakers are to serve their own wines at a walk around tasting at the MW Symposium in Florence from May 15-18.
Among the many MW winemakers is Jacques Thienpont’s wife, Fiona Morrison MW, who will be showing the results from the pair’s latest project.
Called L’If, the wine’s name translates as “the yew”, alluding to the fact it’s a sister label to Thienpont’s Pomerol named Le Pin – or “the pine”.
“It means we have two conifers,” Morrison explained, adding, “And we also called the wine L’If because the word ‘if’ in English refers to all the choices and possibilities in making wine.”
The wine comes from a six-hectare plot in St-Emilion which was bought by Jacques Thienpont in 2010, who was convinced that the soil had the potential to produce great wine, although the vineyards weren’t in top condition.
Next door to vines owned by Troplong-Mondot and Valandraud, Morrison said the estate needed “a lot of work in the vineyard,” noting that the management “wasn’t bad, but classic”.
According to Morrison, although the former owners had not used weedkiller on the vineyard soils, they had sprayed a lot of Bordeaux mixture (a fungicide containing copper sulfate and slaked lime).
On acquiring the estate, which was called Château Haut-Plantey (a name that Thienpont and Morrison are retaining for the property’s second label), the pair embarked on a “very detailed” soil study.
“We bored 26 two-metre deep holes to look at the soil and have split the vineyards into 14 different parcels, which are being treated separately,” said Morrison.
Speaking of the wine on show at the MW symposium, which comes from the 2012 harvest, Morrison said that 2012 was the first vintage “we are quite proud of”.
She added that making wine in St-Emilion had been “a real learning curve”. Comparing the process to sister property Le Pin, Morrison explained, “Making Pomerol is quite easy, but making wine in St-Emilion on the limestone plateau is quite hard”.
Continuing, she told db, “If you are too gentle and try to make it like Merlot in Pomerol, then you don’t get enough extraction and the wine tastes watery.”
When asked about the 2012 wine, she said, “We like wines that are more fruity, we do not like the extraction and high alcohol and the overdone nature of St-Emilion – maybe our wine is a Pomerol version of St-Emilion; we want a more elegant fruity St-Emilion rather than a blockbuster.”
Although the first release of L’If was from the 2011 vintage, Morrison said that just 5,000 bottles were made, and “we sold it ourselves”.
However, 10,500 bottles of the 2012 have been produced, with a suggested retail price of around €50, with Jacques’ nephew Cyril Thienpont in charge of winemaking.
Containing 82% Merlot and 18% Cabernet Franc, the wine has spent 12-14 months in oak, with 50% of the barrels new, and the other half one-year old.
Morrison said that she hoped to increase the proportion of Cabernet Franc in time to over 30% because she “loves” the grape.
She will be pouring the wine at the MW symposium alongside other MW winemakers, such as Steve Smith MW from Craggy Range, Olivier Humbrecht MW from Domaine Zind-Humbrecht and Alastair Maling MW from Villa Maria.
Morrison urged members of the trade to come to the symposium in Florence, pointing out, “Although there will be around 100 MWs there, the symposium is open to all, and it is a great way to feel some of the MW buzz.”
Click here to read more about the symposium.