There is delicacy and finesse on offer at Cheval Blanc in 2012. It is not a blockbuster but offers freshness and attractive balance and it should put on further weight. It’s certainly not as dramatic as some other efforts in St Emilion in 2012. The blend is in favour of Merlot here this year [54%], a clue as to the character of the vintage and perhaps how the Cabernet Franc turned out. I suppose the real question here is price. Cheval Blanc has priced extremely firmly in the past few vintages but will there be a Mouton-like reduction in 2012?
In terms of the weather pattern in 2012 Cheval Blanc reported a very long period of fine dry weather from mid-July onwards, following a fresh and rainy April, a mild May and a wet start to July. Mid-July to the end of September was in fact very dry indeed, with only 30mm of rain compared to the average for that period of 120mm. There were more substantial downpours in early October and later in the month as the harvest completed. Overall they compare the growing cycle to 2000, at least in terms of rainfall and temperature curves.
The poor weather at the outset of the year led to a drawn out and uneven flowering period and pushed back the harvest dates, making the vintage a comparatively late one. The hot and dry conditions later in the growing season did allow for the proper maturation of the fruit which Cheval Blanc report was picked in good condition. The harvest for Merlot began on September 27 and for Cabernet Franc on October 13. Clearly however the fact that the blend favours Merlot [as opposed to Cabernet Franc traditionally here in the grand vin] does point to some relative dissatisfaction with the Cabernet Franc.
In fact much of the Cabernet Franc has made it into the estate’s second wine Le Petit Cheval [75%]. This is an elegant wine, quite structured but with very fine tannins. Chateau Quinault L’Enclos has the reverse blend [81% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Franc] and has good spicy fruit and attractive elegance reflecting the gravelly well-drained terroir of the property close to Libourne.
The following wines were tasted at Chateau Cheval Blanc on Wednesday 10th April 2013.
Chateau Cheval Blanc, Premier Grand Cru Classé ‘A’ St-Emilion
Deep and dense; vibrant at the edge; healthy looking; nice delicacy to the nose; not a blockbuster, feels intellectual and mannered; elegant and well balanced palate, very fine with good purity; pretty structured and still quite tight; fine tannin and very much in the manner of near-neighbour Figeac. Quite tight on the finish. Very precise, linear and polished. Expect this to fill out. 54% Merlot and 46% Cabernet Franc. 93-95
Le Petit Cheval
Mid depth; healthy looking; nice delicacy on the nose; Cabernet Franc very evident; clean and elegant on the palate; good purity and nicely linear and no hard edges to the tannins; very fine; elegant and structured. Fresh finish. Not pushed at all, and will fill out. 75% Cabernet Franc, 25% Merlot. 90-92
Chateau Quinault L’Enclos, Grand Cru Classé, St Emilion
Deep core; healthy colour; spicy tones; cool and fresh palate; vibrant; some spice and perfume; elegant and balanced. Good length. 90-92