I think that people seem to forget that the same family who make the ultra-collectible and ultra-expensive Château Le Pin also make Vieux-Château-Certan. In fact, the Thienpont family has been making VCC for a hell of a lot longer than Le Pin. I have drunk, for example, the 1945 VCC three or four times in my life and it is an amazing wine – dark, rich, and Port-like with a chewy texture and lots of berry and almost raisiny character. The last time I drank it was a couple of years ago at the château with Alexandre Thienpont, who lives at the property in Pomerol and makes the wine.
And I am still saying that that was the last time I drank the 1945, even though a magnum of the 1945 was poured last night during a dinner in Hong Kong. What I tasted last night was not the 1945 that I know and I love. It tasted like a wine from the 1980s, with a good amount of raspberry or cassis added. In any case, it was not what it was supposed to be and the Thienponts, which included Jacques, François and Alexandre, who were also at the dinner, agreed. Shame for all of us at the fabulous dinner, which was organized by Alex Wong and his father George.
"That 1945 had nothing to do with the 1945 VCC,” said Alexandre, who looked slightly dismayed. "In fact, it has nothing to do with the Vieux-Château-Certan. It doesn’t have the signature of the château."
Added François, “I would have never thought that someone would fake Vieux-Château-Certan.”
The controversy over the 1945, however, did not overshadow what was a great tasting and dinner. Prior to eating, the small group of tasters reviewed all the vintages from 2005 to 1993 as well as 1990. I will write a more in-depth analysis of the tasting for the magazine, but I can say that the 1998, 2000, and 2005 are top class vintages for VCC. The 1998 is very much like the amazing 1950 that I have drunk many times. The 2000 and 2005 are more like the ultra-rich yet balanced 1947, which we drank later at dinner. I scored the 1947 VCC 98 points, non-blind.
It’s so exciting to see such pedigree come out in current vintages of a highly regarded wine estate like VCC. As Alexandre said so many times during the dinner, “You see the signature of the estate in these wines.”
Alexandre is one of the most thoughtful winemakers in Bordeaux at the moment. He manages both Le Pin and VCC. He says that he strives to “let nature talk in each bottle” and to remain as “non-interventionist” as possible, only making what his vineyards give him. He does masses of work in his vineyards. So it’s not surprising he relies so much on what he picks.
In the tasting of the early vintages, I could see a great improvement in the quality from 1998 and younger. The newer wines seemed more refined, more precise. Alexandre said that he has been dividing the 14 hectares of vineyards of the property into about a dozen different parcels, and each parcel is then tended and harvested at the optimum time. The grapes from each parcel are vinified separately, and later considered for the overall blend. “It’s more work, but we make better wines that way,” he said. “When I taste something like the 2005, it’s hard to think how we can do better.”
But his family has been making excellent wine at VCC for a long time, and there were very few weak wines in the dinner. The outstanding ones included 1986, 1978, 1966, 1959, 1952, 1948, and 1947. Unfortunately, the 1928 was a dead bottle. Alexandre and François both said that they had had the ’28 before “and it was fantastic.”
I have often heard some people say that VCC is a Médoc in Pomerol because it has about 30 percent Cabernet (both Franc and Sauvignon) planted in its vineyard. But I think it is the quality of the Merlot that makes this wine very, very special. And don’t forget that it’s a neighbor to Pétrus.
One other thing. If you want to understand my excitement for this estate, buy one of the overlooked, lesser vintages such as 1999, 2001 and 2002. The 2001 was one of the big surprises of the tasting. It shows a fabulous nose of blackberries and dark chocolate and then turns to olives. It’s full-bodied, with super refined tannins and a long, caressing finish. Lots of chocolate, cedar and grilled toast character on the palate. It’s hard not to drink it now, but it will improve with age for a long time. 94 points, non-blind.
The 2001 VCC is about $80 a bottle, if you can find it. I know it’s not cheap, but it’s a glorious bottle. Besides, it’s 18 times less expensive than the 2001 Le Pin. I’ll tell you on Monday which is better quality after the Le Pin tasting and dinner on Saturday.
Glenn S Lucash — March 9, 2007 8:36am ET
Glenn S Lucash — March 9, 2007 9:39am ET
Charles J Stanton — Eugene, OR — March 9, 2007 11:42am ET
Lorenzo Erlic — victoria canada — March 9, 2007 1:57pm ET
Johnny Ng — Hong Kong — March 10, 2007 6:31am ET
Brian Greenglass — Toronto, Canada — March 10, 2007 11:56am ET
Glenn S Lucash — March 10, 2007 2:53pm ET
Johnny Ng — Hong Kong — March 11, 2007 9:43am ET
Glenn S Lucash — March 11, 2007 1:58pm ET
Johnny Ng — Hong Kong — March 11, 2007 10:55pm ET
Scott Cheney — Michigan — March 12, 2007 1:52am ET
Alex Salomon — Paris, France — March 16, 2007 5:08pm ET
Johnny Ng — Hong Kong — March 19, 2007 1:12am ET
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