Bordeaux 2017: Jacques Thienpont - Chateau Le Pin

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-05-04



En Primeur - DAY FOUR: A Pine for Sore Eyes

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-04-13


Slightly weary after several busy days of tasting and driving, we were very happy to start today with a blissful treat; Jacques Thienpont hosting us to taste his 2017 Le Pin. Well-tailored and welcoming, Jacques greeted us with his son Georges, and took time to explain a little of the history behind the two wines we were about to taste: L'If and Le Pin. Both wines were stunning, and L'If - one of the newer additions to the Thienpont collection - shows a clear family resemblance to its legendary big brother. (It's upwards price trajectory does, too). What stood out most in both wines (beyond elegant fruit aromas and a cool-silk mouthfeel) were the feather light, super-ripe tannins. When we asked Jacques how he achieved these, he modestly gave all credit to the vineyard, saying “Fiona (Jacques' wife Fiona Morrison MW) can't believe how little I do to the wine”. Whatever the case, we have seen tannins like these at only one other winery (Cheval Blanc) in all of our tastings this week. ‘Extremely svelte, no hint of excess', say Nick's 2017 Le Pin tasting notes.


©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners

The Right Wine for the Job

The Le Pin tasting highlighted a really basic wine investment tip - one which may easily be overlooked. In the excitement of buying a super-expensive wine like this, an investor may well neglect to factor how many years the wine will actually last. Expensive wine is not necessarily long-lived wine. The world's most expensive wines cost so much because they're excellent and sought-after, not because they take forever to mature. Jacques estimates that the Le Pin 2017 is a wine to drink within ten to fifteen years. That's great if you can get hold of it en primeur and turn it around within a few years, but that really isn't particularly long in investment terms. At the opposite end of the spectrum are two wines of similar stature: Chateau Haut-Brion and Chateau Latour. These two are completely different in style - both from Le Pin and from one another. They are chalk and cheese stylistically, but they are clearly similar in how long-lived they are. The longer the maturation period, the more time there is for speculation and anticipation, and the more time you have to find that well-heeled and motivated buyer.


©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners


En Primeur Alive and Kicking

From up-close here in Bordeaux, En Primeur as a buying mechanism (with all its associated practices and processes) seems alive and well. The tasting rooms here are packed and buzzing, all the traditional conversations are happening (again), and tannin-battered tongues are wagging as always. Hopefully this energy will be complemented by sensible release prices in a few weeks' time, and by a decent level of commitment from consumers. And investors...

Watch this space in coming weeks for our thoughts on hot buys, once the producers begin to announce their prices.


En Primeur - DAY THREE: Saint-Julien Delivers

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-04-12


A late return tonight (past midnight) and a long day, waking at 05:00. But there's still gas left in the tank, so to speak. Over the course of the day we gathered thoughts in advance for the below.


Saint-Julien Delivers

JR has been looking for patterns all week - some form of shape around which to build recommendations for wise en primeur purchases. Until this afternoon we failed to find anything solid, but then...Saint-Julien delivered. At the UGC (Union des Grands Crus) Saint-Julien tasting hosted by Chateau Beychevelle at its modern-looking new winery, we noticed a clear consistency in the wines; there wasn't a dud among them. Well, maybe there was one, but we don't need to talk about that as it wasn't really that bad. Either way, this was the first appellation we'd seen where quality was reliably high in these en primeur tastings. Everywhere else had required dedicated tasting to work out what was hot and what was not. So thank you Saint-Julien, and bravo!


Bright Whites

Of course, as soon as this pattern had been spotted, we remembered another that we wanted to talk about yesterday(but ran out of time). It's the incredible purity to the whites this year, all around Bordeaux - not just in Graves where we were today (starting with Haut-Brion, Pape Clement and Smith Haut-Lafitte) but everywhere. Lovely balanced wines great concentration and acidity, and pithy, chalky tannins. Our tasting notes are full of descriptors like kaffir lime leaves, sweet sage, gooseberry, sherbet and candied lemon. Even lemon verbena made it in there. 2017 looks like a really great year for Bordeaux whites.


©Nick Martin / Wine Owners

The Cold Shoulder

Frost - the running theme of conversations all around Bordeaux this week - was as much as issue in Graves as it was in the right bank. The frost pattern here in the Graves seems to have been much more black and white than over in Saint-Emilion and Pomerol. For some producers, there is a glittering silver lining to this rather painful situation, in that they adapted to it by significantly changing their blend and have come out smiling. Larrivet Haut-Brion is a gleaming example of this; the team there turned their blend around to use three times the usual amount of Cabernet Franc, and one third the amount of Merlot (which got severely hit by the frost). Les Carmes de Haut Brion is a similar story, and a similar success.

We have been focusing a lot on the frost topic (both here in the blog, and in our conversations with producers), but in fact a key point we'd like to make is that the frost is not something that consumers and investors should really focus on. What really matters, ultimately, is what each of the producers has managed to create. There are no strong patterns that consumers can reliably follow with regard to the frost.


Softly Softly Catchy Monkey

After a morning on the right bank, we returned to the Medoc, to the UGC tasting at Lafon Rochet. There, Basil Tesseron told us that 2017 was a vintage where it was extremely important not to over-extract, not being a super-ripe or sunny vintage. Over-extraction would just lead to mean, green bitter compounds leaching into the wine. This echoed a sentiment raised earlier in the day at Smith Haut-Lafitte, where the team did 4 pigeages per day, but no pumperovers, in order to keep the winemaking relatively gentle. 2017 was a year to be patient for picking and gentle in the winery.

©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners

Less (Wine) Does Not Necessarily Mean More (Money)

Despite indications given by some chateaux that smaller harvests will mean higher release prices, we see no justification for this. Traditionally, in vintages which are not 'stellar' -particularly those which followed relatively good vintages (as 2016 was) vintages, prices have tended to drop or remain roughly stable. Even in 2006 prices didn't significantly rise; they stayed roughly the same as 2005 even though the vintage clearly wasn't quite as impressive.

Tomorrow is a final look at the top producers we've not yet visited, all around the region. Lots of driving, between Le Pin, Angelus, La Conseillante, Eglise-Clinet and then back over the river to Latour, Leoville Barton and Palmer. Here's hoping for good driving conditions!



2009 or 2010 Bordeaux – expressions of great wine

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2013-11-15


The 2009 Annual Bordeaux Tasting organised by The Institute of the Masters of Wine recently highlighted the high standard and homogeneity of Bordeaux 2009.

The best Medocs were beautifully perfumed, notably throughout the Graves, Margaux, and St. Julien. Where freshness was retained, the very ripe fruit lifted by fresh acidity, the wines were both easy to taste and delineated.

Examples that stood out were:
Pontet Canet with a refined, liqueur texture, fabulous confit yet crystalline, vivid fruit, and a velvety finish.
Leoville Barton was extremely pretty for a property that typically makes very structured long-term wines, exciting and fresh with wonderful aromatics.
Montrose was immense, and so confidently poised within its powerful structure.
Mission Haut Brion was truly fine; beautifully perfumed, noble fruit, dusty tannins in no way inhibiting a very long finish.
Sister property Haut Brion showed in a more structured vein, bright fruits, yeast and cedar on the nose, uplifting with a real sense of energy underlying the progression of flavours. Haut Brion was a beacon of how great 2009 can be when ripe fruit, acidity, structure and energy come together to create a unique, visceral experience. It also served to highlight how unctuous and relatively soft so many of the other wines in 2009 really are. And this isn't necessarily a good thing for the long term.

At a recent dinner tutored by Edouard Moueix where he showed La Fleur Petrus 2009 and 2010 side by side, the 2009 was unctuous and richly textured. The 2010 had more clearly delineated elements, showed as being far more complex, with wave after wave of nuanced flavours through an almost interminable finish.

Back in 2011, in the heat-wave of that Bordeaux spring, 2010 also showed brilliantly. Where wines were compared side by side, the 2010 vintage got my vote almost every time, including beauties from:
Calon Segur
Cheval Blanc
Haut Brion
Haut-Bailly
La Conseillante
L’Eglise-Clinet
La Mission Haut-Brion
Latour
Le Pin
Margaux
Montrose
Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
Rauzan Segla
Vieux Chateau Certan

So for me whilst the two vintages are both extraordinary; I prefer the definition, balance, complexity and enduring length of flavour so commonly found in the best 2010 red Bordeaux, which gets my vintage vote bar a few exceptions like Leoville Barton.


Parker re-rates Top Bordeaux 2009

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2012-03-04


Around 9am on Friday 2nd March 2012 my inbox lit up with wave after wave of 2009 Bordeaux offers from wine merchants. (Congratulations to Flint Wines for refreshingly focusing on an up-and-coming Burgundian grower.) In the weeks leading up to last Friday, merchants had taken the opportunity to inform private customers that RP's new scores were imminent, and that now was a good time to pick over market prices, many of which had fallen from their release price and 2011 highs.

I'd already done all my 2009 'business' during 2010/11 so stood by and watched. Parker duly came out with his new 2009 scores and a glowing recommendation - like 1982 (on which he made his reputation) but better thanks to advances in wine making, a return to traditional vineyard husbandry, and greater de-classification of parcels into second and third wines (in fairness common arguments trotted out regularly by the regisseurs and chateau owners in Bordeaux). What surprised everyone was how many high points he awarded his favourite wines - 18 wines getting 100 points; in comparison to just 6 wines in each of the two great vintages of 2000 and 1982.

Here are the final 100 pointers thanks to Ditton Wine Traders

wine bottle barrel
Beausejour Duffau Lagarosse 100 96-98
Bellevue Mondot 100 95-100
Clinet 100 97-100
Clos Fourtet 100 95-98
Cos d'Estournel 100 98-100
Ducru Beaucaillou 100 96-98
L'Evangile 100 96-100
Haut Brion 100 96-100
La Mission Haut Brion 100 98-100
La Mondotte 100 95-98
Latour 100 98-100
Le Pin 100 95-98
Leoville Poyferre 100 97-100
Montrose 100 96-100
Pavie 100 96-100
Petrus 100 96-100
Pontet Canet 100 97-100
Smith Haut Lafitte 100 96-98

And Friday's price increases vs the previous day's prices ranked from high to low

Wine prior after % change
Beausejour Duffau Lagarosse £1,000 £2,400 140%
Clos Fourtet £750 £1,800 140%
Smith Haut Lafitte £680 £1,600 135%
Clinet £1,500 £2,200 47%
Le Pin £18,000 £25,000 39%
Montrose £1,900 £2,550 34%
Leoville Poyferre £1,350 £1,800 33%
Pontet Canet £1,350 £1,800 33%
L'Evangile £2,300 £2,750 20%
La Mondotte £2,550 £3,000 18%
Petrus £25,000 £29,000 16%
Cos d'Estournel £2,800 £3,200 14%
Pavie £2,200 £2,500 14%
Ducru Beaucaillou £2,000 £2,200 10%
Haut Brion £7,400 £8,000 8%
Bellevue Mondotte £2,550 £2,750 8%
La Mission Haut Brion £5,600 £6,000 7%
Latour £11,700 £11,800 1%


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