The Winemaker Who Loves Trees
Winemakers, by default, are in love with their land, and, by extension, everything that grows on it. We mean everything, even weeds, which is a byproduct and feature of the soil the biodynamic farming movement has come to embrace. But we can think of only one winemaker who loves his trees so much that he names every wine he makes after trees. Yes, we are talking about Jacques Thienpont, the legendary winemaker of Le Pin (“Pine”), L’If (“Yew”), and L’Hêtre (“Beech”).
You may have heard of Le Pin, one of the most coveted (ahem, expensive) wines from Bordeaux, and any wine-producing region in the world, for that matter. Le Pin is proof that sometimes the most unassuming properties have an unbelievable amount of untapped potential (for a producer in a similar setup today, check out Le Pin's neighbor, Château La Violette). Who could have possibly imagined that a little known Pomerol estate with a dilapidated farmhouse, a tiny plot of vines among which a single pine tree grew (hence, the pine reference) could produce one of the most sought-after wine not just in Bordeaux, but in the entire world? For most wine estates to achieve that level of greatness, it takes generations and often centuries. Yet, the Thienpont family managed to elevate the status of this property in just 30 years after it was first bought in 1979.
Truth be told, the Thienponts did not start from nowhere. This Belgian family, long engaged in the trade as a wine merchant, first set its roots in Bordeaux when the family patriarch, Georges Thienpont, acquired Vieux Château Certan in 1924. Fondly referred to as VCC among wine collectors, Vieux Château Certan remains one of the most prized properties of Pomerol today. It sits next to the other great Pomerol estate, Petrus, and is near the Pomerol landmark of the village church. Jacques’s cousin, Alexandre Thienpont and his son Guillaume, run the viticulture operations of both VCC and Le Pin, while Jacques makes wine at the latter. For their contribution, Alexandre and family own 1/6 of the shares of Le Pin, with Jacques and his wife Fiona (a Master of Wine in her own right) own the rest.
Briefly, after the purchase of what will become Le Pin in 1979, the Thienpont family debated adding the plot to VCC. After all, the plot is located next to VCC and Petrus. The final decision was no, and Jacques was drafted by his father Gérard to take charge of this new addition to the family’s holdings. He designed the wine label, named the wine after the lone pine tree growing among the vines, thus began the tradition of naming his wines after trees. The rest is history.
Anybody who is familiar with this story understands that Le Pin is a cult wine with a micro production. To taste it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience (one of our customers sought it for his 80th birthday during the pandemic to complete his wine journey). Often, it is purchased for a special occasion, as another of our customers recently shared with us his reason for buying this wine last year. He had the bottle he bought from us engraved with this question:
We are happy to report, she said “YES!” and both the young man and woman are thrilled for the future they will share, including that magic in the bottle, aging for the ripe moment to open during their life journey.
Yet, with all the praise aside – the glowing reviews from Robert Parker Jr, the fanfare, and the accolades, the core value of Jacques Thienpont is simply about making great wine. He extended his holdings to Pomerol’s neighboring village of Saint-Emilion, with L’If as his rendering of the promise and potential that Saint-Emilion holds.
Further afield, in 2015, recognizing the full potential of the land to the southeast of Saint-Emilion, an area named Castillon-Côtes de Bordeaux, Jacques Thienpont acquired a property named Château Goubau from a fellow Belgian family. He then proceeded to rename it L’Hêtre (“Beech”) in 2016, and appointed his nephew there to run the operations, making a wine that is priced for everyday enjoyment.
We are delighted to bring you the whole range of Jacques Thienpont’s wines: