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Ric re-visits Château Cheval Blanc

July 11, 2019

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Château Cheval Blanc is, perhaps, best known for espousing the virtues of cabernet franc as the main grape varietal in its blend although it is, by no means, the only chateau to do so. Ch Ausone has a similar blend but whereas it only produces 15,000 bottles annually, the output for Ch Cheval Blanc is far greater at 100,000 bottles, laying claim to pole position as far as its association with cabernet franc goes. Comprising 39 hectares in one single block (subdivided into 45 plots), Ch Cheval Blanc is planted with 60% cabernet franc, 35% merlot and 5% cabernet sauvignon, the latter on exactly the same sort of pebbly soil as neighbouring Ch Figeac with which it abuts. The soil is a mixture of gravel and clay. Apart from the grand vin, another 20,000 bottles of the second label Le Petit-Cheval are produced. 20190626_164930.jpgSince 2014, this estate has also begun producing a dry white, a classic blend of semillon and sauvignon blanc from 6 hectares of vines that is most appropriately and confusingly named Petit-Cheval Blanc. The stylish low-lying futuristic-looking chai, just a stone’s throw away from the purple monobloc of Ch La Dominique, was built in 2011.

The 2012 Ch Cheval Blanc we tasted on the warm afternoon of 26 June 2019 was popped and poured. Displaying a beautiful deep ruby, this wine had not been afforded the time to blossom on the nose, just proffering a hint of dark plums. The palate, however, was layered with a wonderful depth of ripe dark fruits, earth and currants tinged with exotic spices and green pepper, quite sublime in acidity with a lovely glowing intensity, very elegantly integrated into the sheen of very fine soft silky tannins that tapered to a quiet finish. Accessible as it is, Cheval Blanc is not a wine to be drunk young. Made with substantial extraction, the wine is best drunk when the tannins have melted (at least 30 years post-vintage) whereupon the glorious rosy hues of its cabernet franc take on an almost Burgundian complex that gives Ch Cheval Blanc its deserved fame. No, I’ve never tasted (and probably will never ever have the chance) the 1947 nor 1961, but the glorious 1975 tasted twice (a standard bottling over lunch at the chateau itself in 2016, and a double magnum courtesy of Dr Ngoi in 2017) has been etched indelibly in my memory.

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See Ch L’Evangile just yonder?

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