Gil's Article: L’If & a Champagne Magnum in Hong Kong

April 28th, 2012

Now that Robert Parker has officially released his final scores for the 2011 vintage and we can compare them to the other top critics, such as James here and the other James at WS, we can quickly conclude that 2011 amounts to a big storm in a very small glass of water. This was exactly as I predicted here and elsewhere and only natural given the enormous amount of greed and price-gouging that took place with the 2009 and 2010.

We now finally have a vintage that has a chance of being a candidate for wine lists at restaurants around the world again, albeit in the future. There will also be great buying opportunities for the consumers when this is released, mainly as deeply discounted bottles of wine at the Foire au Vin in Carrefour, Auchan and E Leclerc starting in 2014. There will be some wounds licked and some pretty steep losses involved, but hey, it’s all in a day’s work in Bordeaux, and quite frankly the perceived losses suffered from the 2011 vintage will not even begin to make a dent in the profits realized from the 2009-10 prices, so it’ll all work itself out.

I was talking to James here in Hong Kong and wanted to know if he had tasted a very special wine, which I was introduced to by Jacques Thienpont, the owner of Le Pin. He told me he had not had this or even been told about it, and subsequently I found out that only very few people had actually been able to taste it; I guess I was very lucky that Jacques let me taste it three times. This wine is called L’If and it is a rock star in the making. It is the new little project from Jacques and Fiona Thienpont in Saint Emilion and it is without question a worthy brother of Le Pin.

The first commercial release will be from 2011 and it will be sold through the same system as Le Pin with a very limited number of bottles coming out, but it can in many ways be compared to the first release of Le Pin back in 1979, which came after what was considered the greatest vintage of its day: the 1978. My recommendation based on my tastings of this exciting wine – which simply sports a beautiful oak tree on the monochromatic front label, referring to the name (L’If in French simply means “The Oak”) – is that this is a must addition to any top-class wine cellar. Although it’ll be hard to find, it is a definite future investment grade wine. The fact that it has no ratings from any top critics makes this even more interesting, and I can’t wait to score a six-pack of this upon its release.

Now, when James and I get together in Hong Kong, we don’t sit around sipping tea, and again the Champagne Lanson Red Label 1976 in magnum proved to be a stunner. I had gone down in advance of the dinner to pick up a great mag at AmoEno, the super slick winebar in the IFC Mall, which is run by none other than good old “Big Bob” Cranston, formerly of Southern Wine & Spirits and Riedel, and someone with 25+ years of insider experience in the wine industry. He has a stash of these rare beauties and at a crazy good price, so if I was a Champagne lover in Hong Kong, that would be my immediate destination to grab a couple while they last.

It is classic Champagne from the heyday of when Victor Lanson was fully in charge of his eponymous and highly regarded house in Reims. He was hugely a fan of the magnum format and Lanson easily was one of the very top houses in the 1970s, having produced blockbuster wines in 1973, 1976 and 1979, not to mention 1971. Monsieur Lanson would personally devour at least two magnums per day, every day, and he is estimated to have drunk more than 20,000 in his day, so it is a miracle when you find a hidden treasure like this in a high-end wine retail store. It is an experience that really defines the ageability of great Champagne. It was so full of minerality, top-notch suave acidity and tasted fresh as a daisy with incredible complexity and depth. It was just utterly delicious with a finish that just lingers on forever with nutty, bready notes. Ah, life is good indeed…

Gil Lempert-Schwarz is a global wine consultant based in Las Vegas and Hong Kong.


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May 5, 2012

Hi Gil,

L'If is a yew tree I believe.


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