(Jancis Robinson – www.jancisrobinson.com – Apr 08)
About this WINE
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.
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.
The most widely planted grape in Bordeaux and a grape that has been on a relentless expansion drive throughout the world in the last decade. Merlot is adaptable to most soils and is relatively simple to cultivate. It is a vigorous naturally high yielding grape that requires savage pruning - over-cropped Merlot-based wines are dilute and bland. It is also vital to pick at optimum ripeness as Merlot can quickly lose its varietal characteristics if harvested overripe.
In St.Emilion and Pomerol it withstands the moist clay rich soils far better than Cabernet grapes, and at it best produces opulently rich, plummy clarets with succulent fruitcake-like nuances. Le Pin, Pétrus and Clinet are examples of hedonistically rich Merlot wines at their very best. It also plays a key supporting role in filling out the middle palate of the Cabernet-dominated wines of the Médoc and Graves.