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Bordeaux 2015: Château Cheval Blanc

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

IMG_0943You would expect Château Cheval Blanc to have produced something impressive in 2015 – and it has. Finesse, elegance and balance are three principle characteristics of Cheval Blanc perhaps in any year but especially so in 2015. It has a prettiness which isn’t coquettish, a density which isn’t overblown and a delicacy that is enticing. There is length too. Despite the elegance the wine weighs in at 14 degrees. The harmony exhibited says a lot about the terroir, the approach but also the year. Like 2010, and to an extent 2011, the fruit in 2015 was the result of the seasons ‘cool’ maturity, ripening in a largely dry but not overly hot September. The resulting wine has beauty. It reminds me of a modern rendition of their 1985. The extent to which the vineyard was in harmony is indicated by the fact that the property produced no Petit Cheval [the second wine] this year. All but two vineyard plots made the final blend [39 plots] of the grand vin.

2015 was actually a particularly dry growing season overall at Château Cheval Blanc. Total rainfall was just 535mm. This was the second lowest figure in twenty years, the lowest being 2005. Temperatures were on average higher between April and late August, while the months of September and October were dry and rather cool. There were heavy showers on October 2nd, but the rest of the harvest occurred in dry weather. Prior to this rain, 2015 was the second driest vintage in 64 years [since 1952] according to the records of the property.

Budbreak was late, but the vines quickly caught up. Flowering was even and took place in good conditions. Veraison was also even and rapid, helped by the rain in early August. Fruit on the gravelly plots ripened early. The first Merlot was harvested on 3rd September. Plot by plot picking meant that the harvest then stretched into October, finishing on the 6th – a 34 day vendange. While Cabernet Franc is usually last to mature, it all depended on the plot. Several parcels of Merlot on sandy soils were harvested later than Cabernet Franc on gravelly soils. The cool temperatures at the end of the growing season helped preserve freshness and acidity.  The result is an aromatic and vital Cheval Blanc.

The same winemaking/winegrowing philosophy is in evidence at Château Quinault Enclos, another property in the LVMH collection. This is an entirely separate St Emilion Grand Cru that is situated in the heart of the town of Libourne. The vines are old and grow on gravelly soils. There is refinement and elegance in the 2015.

The following notes were taken on the wines on Wednesday April 6th, 2016 at Château Cheval Blanc.

Château Quinault Enclos, St Emilion Grand Cru

Mid depth; purple at edge; floral notes; quite perfumed; ripe cherry tones; some black fruit notes; nice glossy palate; sweet and soft entry; elegant; some freshness – harmonious; very soft tannins; nice balance; very elegant style. Fine finish. Nice minerality. Appetising. [69% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, 14.2 alc 50% oak in 450 litre casks]. Drink 2020-2028. 90-92+

Château Cheval Blanc, St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classe ‘A’

Deep at centre; healthy looking; beautiful aromatics; lovely Cab aromatics; very pretty; spices; some menthol tones; very nicely made; attractive modesty and elegance; has real ethereal quality, but there is also depth; lovely balance; nice delicacy; freshness; some grip and mineral tones on the finish. Mineral finish and very long. Expect this to fill out further during elévage. [55% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Franc, 14% alc, 100% new oak]. Drink 2022-2040. 96-98+


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