Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

The original garage wine originally consisted of just one hectare of vines within sight of petrus, the traditional holder of the crown in pomerol. This gentle, south-facing slope of gravel and sand, with about 10% clay, was bought for a million French francs in 1979 by three members of the Thienpont family, Belgian négociants who also own nearby Vieux-Château-Certan in Pomerol and properties in the Côte de francs. The vineyard had previously been farmed by a grower in Lalande-de-Pomerol en métayage, and its produce had for years been vinified there and sold as Le Pin, but not as a château bottled wine. When the Thienponts bought it, a third of the vines were only a year old. The first commercial vintage was 1979, and until the mid 1980s the wine was quite a hard sell. Jacques Thienpont, who commuted between Belgium and Bordeaux, managed to buy out his two co-investors in 1988 and, by adding a further hectare and a half in three contiguous plots, now owns and manages the grand total of about six acres, all Merlot. The wine was always distinctive, deep, and luscious with an almost Burgundian richness, absolutely in tune with the fashion for early-maturing, sensual wines. Le Pin was the first red bordeaux to have its malolactic conversion completed in 100% new oak barrels (no great investment when the total production of the property averaged 600 cases). Demand for this rarity escalated towards the end of the 1980s and the price of the fashionable 1982 vintage reached a peak of £2,500 a bottle in 1997, just before the asian boom began to falter. Le Pin’s success inspired the rash of new, small, luxury right bank estates (see garage wines). In 2011 a new winery designed by Belgian architects Robbrecht en Daem was inaugurated. In 2010 Jacques Thienpont bought 8 ha of St-Émilion Grand Cru vineyard; the former Ch Haut Plantey, renamed L’If (the French word for a yew tree, another conifer). The cellars are located next door to Ch Troplong Mondot (incidentally also owned by the Thienpont family between 1921 and 1933).