1981 & 1992 Le Pin


Le Pin’s superstar status means that one can easily forget that this Pomerol was no overnight success and took several years to achieve renown. It was down to Jacques Thienpont’s perseverance and a little nudge from Robert Parker. It’s almost comical how cheap Thienpont sold his first vintages. I remember his anecdote, how he left a case with a Bordeaux merchant to assess in the hope of securing a sale, returning a year later to spot that same case unopened and gathering dust. Times have changed. Le Pin is a rare and expensive wine, and nowadays, it is almost impossible to find vintages from the early 1980s, partly because the tiny vineyard was even smaller, producing little more than 200 cases per annum from Thienpont’s original acquisition from Mme Loubie in 1979. (Those with copies of my Pomerol tome can see how Le Pin expanded incrementally over the following years.)

I have been fortunate to taste every vintage, though it is over a decade since I encountered one of the early ones. Visiting the estate in December, Thienpont served a bottle blind, a bottle that drew gasps from the audience…even from his better half.

The 1981 Le Pin is a marvel to behold at 42 years of age, and I would argue superior to Petrus that year, having tasted that wine just a few weeks earlier. Showing modest signs of bricking at its rim, the bouquet is just beautiful: red fruit, sloes, shavings of black truffle and freshly rolled tobacco. Over the course of a couple of hours, it gains rather than loses vigor. The palate has admirable concentration, considering that this was not a benevolent growing season, quite full in the mouth with dark berries, tobacco, white pepper and clove. Very cohesive and even daring to fan out towards the finish, I hazarded a guess at the 1983 before Jacques Thienpont unveiled that it was two years earlier, his third vintage. Sublime, though nowadays, incredibly rare. 95/Drink 2024-2040.

Seemingly on a whim, Thienpont whipped out another vintage just a couple of hours earlier. The 1992 Le Pin came from a half-bottle. This has a light and leafy nose, indicative of a cooler growing season, touches of seaweed and autumn leaves, though cohesive and holding up well. The palate is medium-bodied, with slightly coarse tannins, at least for Le Pin, maybe a little attenuated towards the finish, but nevertheless, a respectable showing given that this was a dismal year for the appellation. 86/Drink 2024-2030.

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