Château Cheval Blanc is cool and pure in 2014. There is no doubt that the Indian summer favoured the later ripening Cabernet Franc here, which is such an important constituent in the grand vin [it represents 45% of the blend]. The resulting wine is aromatic and elegant, the palate beautifully sophisticated with plenty of extract and purity. All the elements are held in proportion and there is impressive length on the finish. Cheval Blanc doesn’t usually come out of the starting gate first during primeurs, so expect this to gain further weight and depth during elévage. While vintage comparisons may often be erroneous [but fun] I reckon we are perhaps looking at something similar to 2001 or 1985 here in Cheval Blanc 2014.
The 2014 growing season was a challenging one prior to the dry and warm weather that arrived in the last week of August. Much work was required in the vineyard to deal with the overcast and wet conditions that characterised July and much of August [cool as well as rainy]. The vine cycle had begun a few days earlier than average at bud-break, though flowering was spread over a long period owing to cool weather in late May, early June. Cheval Blanc reported that fruit set was satisfactory. When the good weather arrived, it was genuinely hot [taken together September and October were the warmest recorded in the past twenty years on the property]. It was also dry, with September having only three wet days and October was also mostly dry, with some rain in the middle of the month.
The harvest was spread over 23 days [September 19 – October 10] and the hot, dry conditions allowed time to wait for optimum ripeness and plot by plot picking. As mentioned at the top, the conditions definitely favoured the later ripening Cabernet Franc. The fruit was picked richer in sugar than the Merlot [which came in slightly lower than average sugar levels in the 2004-2014 period]. Malic acid levels were significantly higher than average, though these would have been reduced after malolactic fermentation. Still the wines retain the freshness of the vintage, the grapes remembering the cool summer in the bright acidity, before the autumn heat that saved the day.
The following wines were tasted at Château Cheval Blanc on Wednesday, 1st April, 2015.
Château Cheval Blanc, St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé, ‘A’, 2014.
Deep and healthy colour; dark at the core; fresh looking at edge; purple; deep aromatics; blackcurrants and black cherry; elegant and sophisticated; structured palate; complexity; lots of blackcurrant fruit; depth; cool fruit characters no jam; nicely proportional and very good length on the end; matter and extract here but polished and balanced. Will be excellent. [55% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Franc, 13.1% alc, 75% of harvest, 100% new oak]. Drink 2022-2032. 94-96+
Le Petit Cheval, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2014.
Mid depth; vibrant edge; little more meaty; some blackcurrant spices; elegance; more substantial palate; has flesh but will flesh out further; structured and quite cool in feel; textured palate. Nice length and good grip. [52% Merlot, 48% Cabernet Franc, 12.8% alc, 25% of harvest, 60% new oak]. Drink 2020-2025. 89-91+
Château Quinault l’Enclos, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2014.
Mid depth; earthy purple; fresh and pretty on the nose; perfume and lift; attractive; ripe fruit on entry; nicely structured with appetizing acidity; quite fresh and elegant overall. Nice finish. Will fill out further. [69% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc]. Drink 2020-2028. 88-90+