Chateau Cheval Blanc
|Listed Wines||Cheval Blanc
Le Petit Cheval
|Owner||Louis Vuitton Moët Hennesy (LMVH)|
|President||Bernard Arnault and Baron Albert Frère|
|Annual Production (Grand Vin)||6,000 cases|
|Classification||Premiere Grand Crus Classé A|
|Second Wine||Le Petit Cheval|
|Interesting Fact||In 2010 Château Cheval Blanc smashed the world record for the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold when an 1947 Imperial sold for over $300,000 at Christies.|
The name Chateau Cheval Blanc conjures up for many an image of the very epitome of luxury. It has been ranked among the crème de la crème of Saint-Émilion winemakers since the beginning, and until 2011 was one of only two chateaux to hold the classification of Premier Grand Cru Classé A.
Whilst the extraordinary wines produced at Cheval Blanc have cultivated an extraordinary reputation for quality, the takeover of the estate by LMVH has enhanced its prestige even further. CEO Bernard Arnault, considered one of the most influential tastemakers in the world of fine wine and other luxury goods holds a 50% personal stake in the chateau. He is the man behind the curtain at Krug, Château D’Yquem and Moët-Hennesy.
With co-owner Baron Frère, the richest man in Belgium, Château Cheval Blanc has become a byword for style and quality. The global brand now includes an exclusive hotel in a prestigious Alpine resort, The Cheval Blanc Hotel of Courchevel 1850, with further hotel openings planned under the Cheval Blanc name in Paris, Oman and Egypt.
The near-mythical aura that surrounds the château has led its wine to become one of the most highly prized anywhere and prices continue to reflect this. Vintages that have attained legendary status include the 1921 and 1947, with the latter particularly sought after yet elusive. In 2010, an imperial-sized bottle of this vintage set a new record for the highest priced bottle of wine ever sold, making $304,580 at auction.
Château Cheval Blanc 1947 has consistently been scored 100-points in tastings by Robert Parker. The wines are particularly well-known for their ageing potential, lasting 50 years or more, the 1921 being a case in point. The Grand Vin a firm favourite with critics worldwide who appreciate the no-expense-spared, artisan approach to winemaking which LMVH ownership allows.
The wines have an almost Pomerol character, due to the vineyards position, bordering Château L’Evangile with a unique flavour thanks to the unusually high proportion of Cabernet Franc grapes grown there.
Chateau Cheval Blanc is one of the most enigmatic châteaux in the entire Bordeaux region. The germ of the estate sprouted during the sale of land from Chateau Figeac, in which a large portion of high quality land was bought by the Ducasse family and fell into the hands of the Laussac-Foucards as part of a bridal dowry arrangement in 1852.
The Laussac-Foucards took good care of the estate and it was spared the devastation that befell many vinyards through the economic depression and phylloxera plague, putting the newly-named Cheval Blanc in a competitive position. It won medals at the London and Paris International Exhibitions in 1862 and 1867, depictions of which still grace the Grand Vin label today.
The estate remained in the hands of the same family throughout the 20th century, until 1998 when it drew the eye of luxury goods behemoth LMVH who purchased Cheval Blanc for an unknown sum and have run it ever since, hiring Pierre Lurton to manage the estate.
Chateau Cheval Blanc Pricing
Highest rated vintages for Chateau Cheval Blanc
It will be fascinating to follow the evolution of the 2009 Cheval Blanc versus the 2010 as well as the awesome 2005, 2000, 1998 and 1990. This famous estate’s vineyard is situated at the juncture of Pomerol and the sandy, gravelly soils of St.-Emilion, facing the two noble estates of l’Evangile and La Conseillante. A blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Franc, the 2009 Cheval Blanc tips the scales at just under 14% natural alcohol. Its dense blue/purple color is accompanied by an extraordinary nose of incense, raspberries, cassis, sweet forest floor and a subtle hint of menthol. Opulent and full-bodied with low acidity but no sense of heaviness, this dense, unctuously textured, super-smooth, velvety, pure, profound Cheval Blanc is impossible to resist despite its youthfulness. Anticipated maturity: 2018-2050+.
Coming out of a relatively dormant state, this 2000 is a spectacular Cheval Blanc. Of recent vintages, I think only the 2009 can give it a run for its money. A blend of 53% Merlot and 47% Cabernet Franc, the wine has a sweet nose of menthol, melted licorice, boysenberry, blueberry, and cassis. A broad wine with compelling purity, a layered texture, and sweet tannin, with hints of coffee and earth in the background, this is by far the best Cheval Blanc since 1990 and before 2009. It is a legend in the making and can actually be drunk now, as the tannins have nearly melted away. This is a beauty with incredibly complex aromatics. Drink it over the next 25-30 years.
One of my favorite Cheval Blancs, it remains to be seen if the 1998, 2000, and 2008 will live up to this offering. It is the ripest wine of the aforementioned vintages, with a complex bouquet of tobacco leaf, Christmas fruitcake, sweet black fruits, bordering on fig and plum, but no hint of overripeness, and notions of new saddle leather, mint, and incense. The gorgeously expressive aromatics are followed by a full-bodied wine revealing abundant glycerin as well as elevated alcohol, but it is not hot, and nothing is out of place. Expansive, rich, and revealing the nuances and complexity that come from bottle age, it is at its peak of maturity where it should remain for another 10-15 years. Release price: ($3000.00/case)
The 2010 Cheval Blanc contains 13.8% alcohol, which is very high for this estate, and has an unusually high percentage of Cabernet Franc in the final blend (56% versus 44% Merlot). Yields were tiny, adding to the richness and intensity already instilled by the drought of summer and resulting tiny berries. In the style of some of the great Cheval Blancs of the late 1940s, this wine is rich, opulent, full-bodied, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, as saturated purple in color as any Cheval Blanc I have seen. Mulberries, black currants, fresh minerals, and floral notes jump from the glass of this full-bodied, dense wine. With its tannins, good acidity and surprisingly modest pH, this should be an exceptionally long-lived wine, more backward and delineated than the fatter, more opulent 2009. Drink it over the next 30+ years.
The dense ruby/purple-hued 2005 Cheval Blanc’s ethereal bouquet of menthol, coffee, wet stones, black cherries, blackberries, and hints of graphite and spice soars from the glass. An equal part blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, it is medium to full-bodied with a gorgeous texture in addition to high tannins that glide over the palate with no angularity or astringency. While it does not quite reach the perfection of the 2000, it should rival the profound 1998 and 1990. This is not a Cheval Blanc for near-term drinking as it demands at least a decade’s worth of cellaring. Anticipated maturity: 2017-2035.
I seriously underestimated this wine, as I have often tended to do with Cheval Blanc. A potentially immortal example that has gained significant weight since it has been bottled, this blend of 55% Cabernet Franc and 45% Merlot has a saturated purple color and a glorious nose of menthol, plums, mulberries, new saddle leather, cocoa, and vanilla. Remarkably fuller-bodied than I ever remembered it young, with an amazingly seamless texture and tremendous concentration and extract, this full-bodied yet gorgeously pure and elegant wine is impeccably balanced and certainly one of the all-time great Cheval Blancs. If it continues to improve as much as it has over the last three years since bottling, this wine will certainly rival the 2000, 1990, and 1982. Anticipated maturity: 2009-2030. Last tasted, 1/03.
The final blend for the 2012 Cheval Blanc was 54% Merlot and 46% Cabernet Franc. Despite the use of 100% new oak, there is not a hint of vanillin, toast or espresso notes in the aromatic bouquet, which is filled with scents of black currants, sweet cherries, lavender, forest floor and a hint of underbrush. Concentrated with a surprisingly lofty alcohol level of 13.9% as well as a tannin level that equals their 2010 (a wine bestowed a three-digit score), this full-bodied, opulent 2012 has a pH of 3.8, which accounts for its suppleness, velvety texture and heady richness. It is a great success in this vintage. It will be approachable early given its silky structural aspects, and should last for two decades.
The brilliant 2006 Cheval Blanc performed better from bottle than from barrel. A blend of equal parts Cabernet Franc and Merlot grown in a superb vineyard site facing La Conseillante and l’Evangile at the very edge of the sandy, gravelly soils of St.-Emilion, it boasts a dense ruby/purple color as well as a sweet perfume of menthol, charcoal, boysenberries, black currants, and hints of cocoa and caramel. Lush, textured, and opulent with superb purity, medium to full body, savory flavors, and sweet, sexy tannins, this stunning Cheval Blanc may be even better than the 2005. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2030.
The 2011 Cheval Blanc is one of the more plump, opulent and sexy Cheval Blancs made over recent vintages, and its forwardness, lusciousness and complexity seemingly suggest this wine is on a fast evolutionary track. The wine exhibits a dense ruby/purple/plum color, a medium to full-bodied opulence, a sumptuous mid-palate (atypical for the vintage), and a lush, heady finish. It is a super, complex, evolved Cheval Blanc that can be drunk now or cellared for 15+ years. Bravo!
The best second wine I have ever tasted from Cheval Blanc is the 2010 Le Petit Cheval. This wine is essentially three-fourths Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc. Rivaling the brilliant 2009, thirty percent of the production from this monstrously sized estate made it into this wine, which offers up plenty of white chocolate, cassis and mulberry as well as a hint of roasted herbs. With fleshy, round flavors, full-bodied texture and an amazing finish, this is no second wine, and considerably better than some of the Cheval Blancs of the 1960s and 1970s! Drink it over the next 15 or so years.