A Le Pin dinner with  Jacques Thienpont

A Le Pin dinner with Jacques Thienpont

Tuesday 28th February 2017
by Chadwick Delaney

Last night was a rare privilege.  Our private dining room in St. James’s, the host of many truly wonderful evenings over the years, had the pleasure of welcoming Jacques Thienpont over from Bordeaux for the very first time. 

Jacques flew in to meet some of our customers who have been buying Le Pin.  It was quite the gathering.  All deep admirers of this iconic Bordeaux estate. We started the evening with a small glass of L’If ’14.  Jacques’ little St Emilion baby as he called it.  It showed a lovely balance with pure, silky fruits and was a first experience of L’If for many of those attending. 

After a chilled glass of Dom Perignon ’04 we moved to the dining room for supper and a stunning vertical of Le Pin.  I am quite sure no-one would have predicted how magical, how ethereal the first wine would be.  Le Pin ’94 – which for many, including me, turned out to be the wine of the night.  It was one of the most extraordinary wines I have drunk in a very long time: such exquisite delicacy, and the fruits still so primary even after 23 years.  Jacques talked with deep affection for this particular wine, explaining how the slope and sandy gravel soil meant that the harvest rains that affected others in that year evidently created something quite fundamentally different and special with him.  It was accompanied by a hand-carved carpaccio of beef, with a little pecorino and truffle.

Justerini & Brooks Chairman, Hew Blair, in the dining room with  Jacques Thienpont. 

Whilst still finishing off the carpaccio we moved to the youthful 2009 Le Pin as a comparison.  There was more flesh in the ’09, and still so much more to give – the glass slowly filled with beautiful, red fruit notes and throughout the evening it continued to unfurl until it was a total beauty an hour after in glass.  Already one could see a signature – there are no hard edges in Le Pin – beautifully put together, its silky tannins, that almost sensuous palate, and its gentle, fine acidity - all in perfect harmony.  It is a truly rare, almost hedonistic wine.

After the first two vintages of Le Pin we had a glass of his cousin’s wine – Vieux Chateau Certan ’01, which accompanied a course of pancetta-wrapped monkish served in a red wine jus.  Vieux Chateau Certan is a perennial favourite at Justerini & Brooks – a wine we have proudly championed for many years, and Alexandre Thienpoint is unquestionably one of the greatest Bordeaux wine-makers of his generation.  It was a fascinating comparison with Le Pin.  No doubt, on its own the ’01 is a wine of great pedigree and stunning class.  But sitting among what became a range of various vintages of Le Pin, one can see that the unique magic, particularly in the ethereal quality of Le Pin, is not there in Vieux Chateau Certan. 

A fine line-up of the wines of Jaques Thienpont that guests enjoyed on the evening. 

Whilst the next course of a combined confit and a roast breast of duck was being served, the Le Pin ’00 was poured out.  This vintage was the most structured of all the vintages so far that evening, and in many ways was in fact the vintage the furthest from drinking.  To start, it was a little brooding, but with time it began to open and the palate became magnificent.  There was a seriousness to its profile throughout the evening, a perfect reflection of the vintage.  It also gave the impression of a long, illustrious life ahead.  

Individual Comté soufflés were served with the last vintage of the evening – Le Pin ’96.  This was the first vintage one could say was in it’s full drinking plateau. It showed surprisingly a little extra development  to the ’94 (which was still singing in its glass two hours after being poured), but the ’96 gave huge pleasure.  There was a little extra warmth to the fruits which was particularly enticing and again the quintessential Le Pin aromas quickly filled the glass.  There is, no doubt, rare magic in a wine like Le Pin.  As the gathering began to sadly break up, I could still taste the last sip.  I think we all knew, as we walked out into a late St James’s night, there were precious few opportunities to drink so many heavenly glasses of Le Pin in one sitting.  Particularly with the wonderful tutelage and vineyard insights from Jacques himself.

 Chadwick Delaney