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2004 Le Pin, Pomerol
Le Pin is the most expensive wine in the world. Jacques Thienpont purchased the meagre 1.6 hectares of land for one million francs in 1979. The Thienpoints named their wine Le Pin after a solitary pine tree that shaded the property. By acquiring tiny adjoining plots of land, Jacques has doubled the size of Le Pin to five acres. The south-facing vineyard on a well-drained slope of gravel and sand is planted with Merlot (about 92%), and a small amount of Cabernet Franc.
Le Pin's soil is a mixture of gravel and clay with a little sand and is exceptionally low yielding (between 30 to 35 hl/hc). The grapes are hand-harvested and are fermented in stainless steel before being matured in`200%` new oak barriques for between 14 and 18 months. Dany Rolland, wife of cult-oenologist Michel Rolland, is a consultant here.
Le Pin produces just 600 to 700 cases each year (Lafite Rothschild produces approximately 29,000 cases of wine a year and and Pétrus about 4,000) and its rarity is one of the driving forces behind its high prices. Le Pin produces super-concentrated, decadent, lush and lavishly oaked wines - they can be drunk young but are best with 7-10 years of bottle ageing.
Cabernet Sauvignon lends itself particularly well in blends with Merlot. This is actually the archetypal Bordeaux blend, though in different proportions in the sub-regions and sometimes topped up with Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
In the Médoc and Graves the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend can range from 95% (Mouton-Rothschild) to as low as 40%. It is particularly suited to the dry, warm, free- draining, gravel-rich soils and is responsible for the redolent cassis characteristics as well as the depth of colour, tannic structure and pronounced acidity of Médoc wines. However 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines can be slightly hollow-tasting in the middle palate and Merlot with its generous, fleshy fruit flavours acts as a perfect foil by filling in this cavity.
In St-Emilion and Pomerol, the blends are Merlot dominated as Cabernet Sauvignon can struggle to ripen there - when it is included, it adds structure and body to the wine. Sassicaia is the most famous Bordeaux blend in Italy and has spawned many imitations, whereby the blend is now firmly established in the New World and particularly in California and Australia.
Pomerol is the smallest of Bordeaux's major appellations, with about 150 producers and approximately 740 hectares of vineyards. It is home to many bijou domaines, many of which produce little more than 1,000 cases per annum.
Both the topography and architecture of the region is unremarkable, but the style of the wines is most individual. The finest vineyards are planted on a seam of rich clay which extends across the gently-elevated plateau of Pomerol, which runs from the north-eastern boundary of St Emilion. On the sides of the plateau, the soil becomes sandier and the wines lighter.
There is one satellite region to the immediate north, Lalande-de-Pomerol whose wines are stylistically very similar, if sometimes lacking the finesse of its neighbour. There has never been a classification of Pomerol wines.