Chateau Cheval Blanc, which is translated into white horse, has a long, colorful history in St. Emilion that is traced all the wine back to 1832. That was the year the Ducasse family purchased land from the much larger estate of Chateau Figeac. Those vines became the genesis of what many people think is the best wine of St. Emilion, Chateau Cheval Blanc. At that time, back in 1832, Figeac was owned by Countess Félicité de Carle-Trajet. Figeac had grown to a massive 200 hectare estate. It was The Countess who decided to sell portions of their holdings to interested buyers. The breakup of Figeac helped create a myriad of new St Emilion wine making estate for numerous interested buyers. That explains why so many chateaux include the word Figeac as part of their name. However, the owners of what was to become Cheval Blanc wanted to eventually establish their own identity that was seperate from Figeac.
In 1838, the Ducasse family began buying more St. Emilion vineyard land to create Chateau Cheval Blanc. In 1852, when Mille Ducasse married Jean Laussac-Fourcaud, she came with a dowry that included their recently acquired Bordeaux vineyards that included 2 of the 5 gravel mounds running through Chateau Cheval Blanc and Figeac. This was an amazing dowry! The family Laussac-Fourcaud continued adding to their holdings and by 1871, they accumulated a total of 41 hectares in St. Emilion. Chateau Cheval Blanc remains that size to this day.
Cheval Blanc, with its recent renovations is now the most modern facility in St. Emilion today. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Around 1860, when the chateau for Cheval Blanc was being built, extensive work was also being done in the vineyards. In fact, even then, Chateau Cheval Blanc was at the forefront of vineyard management techniques when they added a vast network of drains in their vineyards. Chateau Cheval Blanc was probably the first estate in the Right Bank to install this type of drainage system.
At first, Chateau Cheval Blanc sold their wine under the Figeac label. Once Chateau Cheval Blanc began winning medals for the obvious quality level found in their wine, they changed their label. That change included placing pictures of their medals on the label, which is still featured in the artwork that adorns the labels for the wine today. More importanly, the wines were now sold under the name of Chateau Cheval Blanc, which created a separate identity for their brand.
In 1998 Chateau Cheval Blanc was purchased by Bernard Arnault and Baron Albert Frère for 155 million Euros.
The vineyard cepage of Cheval Blanc is 58% Cabernet Franc and 42% Merlot. Blends vary, depending on the style of the vintage. The vines are old, averaging 45 years of age. However, some of the older parcles of Cabernet Franc are close to 100 years of age! They are planted to a vine density of 8,000 vines per hectare. In 2012, following the 2012 St. Emilion Classification, A 1.3 hectare portion of the Chateau La Tour du Pin vineyards were added to Cheval Blanc. Vinification takes place in 52 different temperature controlled, cement vats that vary in size, due to the needs of specific parcels. The wines are aged in 100% new oak for close to 18 months before bottling.
Cheval Blanc also produces a second wine, Le Petit Cheval. Close to 6,500 cases per year are produced of Cheval Blanc. On average, 3,000 cases of Le Petit Cheval are made per vintage. Cheval Blanc also maintains an interest in the Mendoza region of Argentina. They produce the wine Cheval des Andes.
The beauty of Cheval Blanc is the complex, powerful perfume paired with textures that can feel as soft as polished silk and velvet. The wine is incredibly rich. Yet it’s never heavy. Cheval Blanc can be enjoyed young. However, it is one of the longest lived Bordeaux wines being produced. As you can see from my tasting notes, the legendary 1921 is still going strong at close to 90 years age! I hope I show that well when I’m 90.
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With thanks to Jeff Leve from http://www.thewinecellarinsider.com, for the invaluable information