• Domaine: L'IF
• Appellation: Saint-Emilion
• Classification: Grand Cru
• Origin: Right Bank, Bordeaux, France
L’if is yet another cult wine produced by Jaques Thienpont. If the name rings a bell, that’s because it is associated with one of the most sought-after wines on the Right Bank – Le Pin. The Thienponts have a profound respect for nature, especially trees, and have fittingly named all their properties after them. Le Pin was named after the single, solitary pine tree growing in a place of prominence on the Pomerol property, the Castillon property L’Hêtre was named after the beech tree, and the small Saint-Émilion estate L’if takes its name from the Yew tree. Yew trees are symbolically associated with regeneration. It is the perfect symbol associated with the life-cycle of the vine – always changing, always growing, and getting stronger with age.
L’if is a fairly young estate and is still a considered by the Thienpont family to be a “work in progress.” Given the high scores, it is clear the Thienponts are an exceptionally humble sort. The estate was purchased in 2010 by Jaques Thienpont, who gave it the name L’if. Like many of the Thienpont properties, L’if was a small plot situated on the Saint-Émilion plateau called Château Le Haut-Plantey. It was just .5 hectares of vines. Since then, the Thienponts have expanded the holdings of this estate steadily over time to 8 hectares. The Thienponts are a powerful family in the Right Bank. It is no small feat that the three properties they run – Le Pin, L’Hêtre and L’if have all achieved cult status, with Le Pin retailing for several thousands of dollars a bottle. Fortunately, L’if and L’Hêtre both share a more accessible price tag, allowing oenophiles to discover the impressive winemaking skills of the Thienponts. The estate is presently managed by Cyrille Thienpont – Jacques Thienpont’s cousin.
The property is planted with 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc. These vines thrive in the nutrient dense chalky limestone and clay soils. The property has some excellent neighbors, like the estates Troplong Mondot and La Mondotte. When the estate was purchased in 2010, an extensive soil study was done to see which varietals and cover crops thrived in certain plots. Cabernet Sauvignon was initially planted there, but the majority of it was removed because the soil was more compatible with Cabernet Franc. The Thienponts are hoping to add more Cabernet Franc vines to the property in the future and steadily ramp up production at the estate. The wine is vinified in stainless steel, and the wines are aged in 50% new French oak barrels.
L’if is an incredibly beguiling and stylish Saint-Émilion, with tremendous ageing potential. During good vintages, the wine can age for 10 – 15 years. Production at L’if is small, at under 1,000 cases per year, making this wine hard to find and cementing its cult status. As the Thienponts continue to plant this fledgling vineyard, production will increase with time. Till then, this gem of a wine is well worth the purchase – especially for those who appreciate the know-how of the Thienpont family.
"Austere on the opening beats, then a ton of enjoyable berry fruits. As it settles in, it delivers fine tannins with intense and sappy hawthorn, crushed stone and tobacco leaf character backing them up. Great balance, some austerity, and a tiptoeing through the palate that speaks of its clay-limestone soils. Fiona and Jacques Thienpont are the owners here, with winemaking from their nephew Cyrille Thienpont. 50% new oak. A yield of 34hl/ha." - Jane Anson, Decanter, Rating: 92, Drink: 2025-2042
"The 2020 L'If is shaping up to be a jewel of a wine. In most vintages so far, L'If has been a dense, textured Saint-Émilion. In 2020, all of that energy seems directed toward extreme verticality rather than heft. I have to say, it’s a style I like a lot. Bright acids and persistent tannins drive a core of red/purplish fruit, while floral, spice and mineral-drenched accents linger. The 2020 is a blend of 84% Merlot and 16% Cabernet Franc, picked on 9/16, 9/24 and 9/26 for the Merlot and 10/1 for the Franc. This is the first vintage that includes fruit from a new parcel in the Saint-Étienne-de-Lisse district. A statuesque, captivating beauty, L'If is loaded with potential. I loved it." Antonio Galloni, Vinous, June 2021 Rating: 95-97 Drink: 2030-2055
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