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Château La Tour du Pin 2009

Château La Tour du Pin 2009

The origins of Château La Tour du Pin are complicated to explain, although if we look at the name that was used up until 2006 it at least gives us a clue. Château La Tour du Pin Figeac, as it was known, was one of many estates dotted around the very western extreme of the St Emilion appellation, where limestone and sand give way to gravel and clay, to have been cleaved from the original Figeac estate. This once extensive property gave rise not only to the modern-day Château Figeac and Château Cheval Blanc, but to any number of other estates many of which wear their origins on their sleeves, including Château La Tour Figeac and Château Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac.

To add to the complexity Château La Tour du Pin Figeac was itself subdivided, which meant that when I first started learning about Bordeaux there were, confusingly (it doesn’t take much where I am concerned), two Figeac-derived estates that went by exactly the same name. They were distinguished purely by the name of the proprietors, giving us Château La Tour du Pin Figeac (Giraud-Bélivier) and Château La Tour du Pin Figeac (Moueix). The former estate still exists today, while the latter, which was acquired by Antoine Moueix, that same branch of the family which today still owns Château Taillefer and Château Tauzinat L’Hermitage, disappeared after the 2011 vintage.

The estate had been acquired by LVMH, the owners of Château Cheval Blanc, back in 2006, and they immediately dropped not only the Moueix suffix, but Figeac too, and thus we had Château La Tour du Pin. I recall meeting the wine made by the new owners for the first time in the 2007 vintage, during a visit to Château Cheval Blanc; I thought, for a difficult vintage, it was a promising start. Indeed, the 2008 was certainly a step up in quality, while the 2009 was delicious. With Pierre-Olivier Clouet and his team making the wine, I guess we should not have expected anything less. I was sufficiently convinced to buy some of the 2009 for my own cellar, just one of a number of good-value wines I stocked up on in that vintage.

Château La Tour du Pin 2009

My joy turned to confusion, however, when few years later the estate seemed to disappear. Having expected it to achieve a suitable ranking in the 2012 St Emilion classification, it was nowhere to be seen. “What’s happened to La Tour du Pin?”, I asked myself. Unsurprisingly, that didn’t yield any answers, so I asked Pierre-Olivier Clouet instead.

As it turned out, the team at Château Cheval Blanc weren’t quite as enamoured of the wines of Château La Tour du Pin as I was. In reviewing how they would respond to the 2012 St Emilion classification, they decided to focus on gaining a suitable ranking for their other estate, Château Quinault L’Enclos. They didn’t feel that the wines of Château La Tour du Pin would make the grade (both La Tour du Pin Figeac estates had been demoted in the subsequently annulled 2006 classification), and so they took a different approach. The estate was split into two, with 1.4 hectares of Merlot planted on attractive gravelly soils at the eastern end of the estate absorbed into the vineyard of Château Cheval Blanc, the first such addition in more than 140 years. The rest, with soils of sand or fine gravel, was either top-grafted or replanted to Sauvignon Blanc and more lately Semillon. So if you have ever wondered where the vines for the recently created white wine of Château Cheval Blanc, Le Petit Cheval Blanc, are located, now you have your answer.

In the meantime I will continue to work my way through my case of 2009 Château La Tour du Pin, content that at least part of what I am drinking would these days be included in the blend of Château Cheval Blanc. Well, you have to get your kicks where you can. In the glass the wine shows a reassuring colour, a vibrant black cherry hue, with a raspberry claret rim. The nose starts off with toasty plum notes, then it focuses down into grilled black cherry, with twists of toasted black bean, black olive and ground coffee. There follows an elegant start to the palate, textured but not overly soft, succulent though, with considerable tannic structure; it feels broad and grippy, the tannins pervading the middle and endpalate. In the finish it feels long and charged with tannic energy, and it has a lovely confidence, with flourishes of blackcurrant, plum, coffee and toasted nut. Overall this is a nicely composed wine, youthful and structured, and certainly still on the way up. I think this will be fine for drinking any time over the next decade. 94/100 (18/2/19)

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