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Chateau Cheval Blanc Managing Director Pierre LURTON (centre) hosted the tasting on 14 May 2011.

Pierre LURTON shares a light moment with Serena SUTCLIFFE MW, Head of Wine, Sotheby's.

Story By Ch'ng Poh Tiong
Photos By Eric Barriere

On Friday 13 May 2011, Chateau Cheval Blanc gave a sneak preview of their new cellar to a group of journalists.

Most were French or based in France, while some of us came from further afield. Photos of the new cellar are embargoed until 16 June 2011 when the cellar will be officially inaugurated by the proprietors of the Saint-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classe A, namely the wealthiest man in Belgium, Baron Albert FRERE, and Bernard ARNAULT, the wealthiest man in France.

Instead of taking photographs, I shot a video instead. This can be viewed at www.chinesebordeaux.com and www.vinovideos.com.

On Saturday 14 May 2011, we were hosted by Managing Director of Cheval Blanc, Pierre LURTON, to a vertical tasting of 20 vintages spanning 1919 to 2000.

It is interesting to note that LURTON joined Chateau Cheval Blanc in 1991, the year of the infamous frost which wiped out more than a few vineyards. No Chateau Cheval Blanc was produced in 1991. The following two vintages, 1992 and 1993 turned out also to be quite forgettable as far as quality was concerned. Then followed 1994, which was better on the Right than Left Bank. It wasn't until 1995 that things began to really looked up for Cheval Blanc and the whole of Saint-Emilion.

The day of our tasting, Saturday 14 May 2011, the sky outside was overcast. This made the condition in the room very pleasant indeed because the day before, Friday 13 May, it was practically a summer's day with the temperatures close to 30 degrees Celsius. The tasting started about 10.30 in the morning and ended just before 1.

Chateau Cheval Blanc 1919 ★★★★★
Pale , dull tawny complexion. Bright aromas of wood spice, including whiff of sandalwood, aged tobacco and dried figs. The finish is of sandalwood and dried citrus peel. Very balanced and very fresh. A wine from another era. Medium-plus-ish in weight.

Chateau Cheval Blanc 1938 ★★★1/2
Deeper tawny, orangey rim than 1919. Slightly corked but also wood spiced. Firmness of structure over the fruit. Freshness and grip on the end. Medium-bodied.

Chateau Cheval Blanc 1947 ★★★★★★
Vibrant mid-red with a pale tawny rim. Ripe, rich fruit and tannins which are completely resolved and evolved. Very figs on the nose and palate. The sweet fruit (10 gm of residual sugar) is intense, persistent and long. The texture is pure velvet – rich, warm, soft and enveloping. Sensuous and baroque or, if you prefer, Botero in its sumptuous richness. Full-bodied. This is the first time I have tasted this legendary wine. In the past, I have heard people associating Cheval Blanc 1947 with being Port-like. They are not entirely right. The fruit, flavour and texture is more like a miniature Pedro Ximenez. Deserves 6 stars for being such an absolutely unique wine.

Chateau Cheval Blanc 1948 ★★★★
Colour quite similar to 1947 but a touch lighter. The nose and palate is of sandalwood and spiced, dried fruits. The finish is of freshness and structure – a final grip of tannins. Medium-plus bodied.

Chateau Cheval Blanc 1949 ★★★★1/2
Colour more evolved than 1948 and 1947. Mid-ish red with an orange/tawny rim. Driftwood, dried plums and dried prunes with a delicate sweetness of fruit. An elegant piece of velvet. Finishes with freshness and softly, grainy tannins. Medium-plus bodied.

Chateau Cheval Blanc 1953 ★★★★★
Mid-ish dull red with a tawny rim. The nose, after the above five older wines, remarkably bright, even youthful. Sandalwood/cedary, delicately spiced, nuanced fruit with buoyant freshness and persistence. Balanced, long and vivacious. Great elegance. Medium-plus bodied.

Chateau Cheval Blanc 1959 ★★★★1/2
A deeper shade than 1953. Ripe, warm, sweetish fig/prune fruit and a whiff of mint. Round tannins. Rich, velvety but not as complex and nuanced as 1953. Full-bodied.

Chateau Cheval Blanc 1961 ★★★★★
Colour considerably deeper than 1953. The most closed on the nose of all the wines so far. The palate, though, is very expressive. Mint and cassis-ish. Ripe, fruity and spiced, including of Chinese medicinal herbs. A sweetness of fruit and sweetness – but also richness – of tannins. The finish is a touch dry. A masculine Cheval Blanc. Full-bodied.

Chateau Cheval Blanc 1971 ★★★★★
Red/ruby with an pale tawny orange rim. Mint and cassis-ish on the nose. The palate is of sweet, elegant fruit with freshness that is very long. Ethereal, yet medium-plus bodied.

Chateau Cheval Blanc 1975 ★★★1/2
Mid-red with a tawny orange rim. A whiff of the barnyard on the nose. Richness of fruit and tannins with the structure dominating on the finish. Dry finish. Medium-plus bodied.

Chateau Cheval Blanc 1978 ★★★★
Firm-mid red with a tawny orange rim. Capsicums, herbaceous and mint. Light, crisp fruit with lots of freshness. Balanced. Very fresh. And very enjoyable. Medium-bodied.

Chateau Cheval Blanc 1982 ★★★1/2
Dull mid-red with a tawny orange rim. Oaky spiced fruit with a hint of mint. Austere on the finish. Full-bodied. Bernard BURTSCHY, a professor of statistics and wine columnist for Le Figaro (who was seated next to me), commented that this was not a good bottle of 1982.

Chateau Cheval Blanc 1985 ★★★★★
Mid-red with a tawny orangey rim. Whiff of sulphur. Ripe, rich, sweet cedary fruit. Not completely evolved. Freshness on the finish. Full-bodied.

Chateau Cheval Blanc 1988 ★★★★1/2
Mid-red with a very pale tawny rim. A touch of barnyard. Capsicum, herbaceous, spiced fruit. Great persistence of freshness and elegant fruit from start to long finish. Not a big, but a very balanced and highly enjoyable wine. Medium-plus-ish bodied.

Chateau Cheval Blanc 1989 ★★★★ to ★★★★1/2
Dull firm-ish red with a orange tawny rim. Sunshine, warmth and big ripeness on the nose. Minty, oak spiced, peppery, blue fruit. Rich tannins and rich fruit. Masculine. Full-bodied.

Chateau Cheval Blanc 1990 ★★★★★★
Almost the same colour as 1989, but less evolved. Whiff of sulphur. Very youthful red/blue fruit, rich tannins and dancing acidity. Still an atom, tight and taut. Full-bodied. Too young to open, wait at least another 3 to 5 years. And with a very long future ahead. Deserves all six stars.

Chateau Cheval Blanc 1995 ★★★★★
Firm red. After so many old wines, very youthful indeed. Ripe blue/cedary fruit taunted by ripe, rich tannins. Still a bit taut. Intensity and freshness. Full-bodied.

Chateau Cheval Blanc 1996 ★★★★
Colour a shade lighter than 1995 and more evolved, with a light tawny rim. Sunshine and heat on the nose. Ripe, dried fruit and rich, dry tannins. Full-bodied.

Chateau Cheval Blanc 1998 ★★★★★
Firm red colour. Oak spiced, cedary, blue fruits. The nature of the fruit is still quite primary. Rich tannins. Intensity. Freshness. Length. Very youthful. Full-bodied. My one question mark about this wine is, 'Is the oak just a bit overdone?'

Chateau Cheval Blanc 2000 ★★★★★ (from 750 ml bottle)
Firm, deep red. Oaked spiced, cedary, deep blue fruits. Ripe and rich, the fruit and tannins. Persistence and length. And great freshness. Full-bodied.

Chateau Cheval Blanc 2000 magnum ★★★★★ (from 1500 ml magnum)
Colour practically the same as wine from 750 ml bottle. The fruit is more closed, the freshness even more vibrant, and the tannins very primary still. Impressive.

★★★★★ Outstanding ★★★★ Excellent ★★★ Good ★★ Average ★ Acceptable 1/2 Half Star

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