“The elegant, moderately weighted 1996 Cheval Blanc reveals a deep garnet/plum, evolved color. Quintessentially elegant, with a complex nose of black fruits, coconut, smoke, and pain grille, this medium-bodied wine exhibits sweet fruit on the attack, substantial complexity, and a lush, velvety-textured finish. It is very soft and evolved for a 1996.” -Robert Parker, Wine Advocate (90 Points)
Whether by design or by pure chance, there are in the world exceptional places. Cheval Blanc is one of these. Combining a unique soil with a symbiotic mix of grape varieties, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, Cheval Blanc produces a wine, which has the rare quality of being good at any age. It is without doubt one of the most consistent wines in the world. Cheval Blanc's unique identity is due to its varied soils, early-ripening microclimate, the percentage of Cabernet Franc in the vineyard, and the close proximity of the finest wines of Pomerol.
Château Cheval Blanc has the rare ability to be good at whatever age. It is enjoyable young or as much as a century old in certain vintages. However, a great wine only reveals its full potential and all its subtle nuances after several years in bottle. It takes time to show its true colours and before reaching its peak. Every vintage of Cheval Blanc is made according to the traditional philosophy that great wine needs to age.
It should nevertheless be said that wines with ageing potential go through several periods, and that each one has its own type of attractiveness. This is all part of Château Cheval Blanc's fascinating complexity. Three different bottles of Cheval Blanc from the same vintage drunk at five, twenty, and forty years of age will each show a different facet of the same wine, variations on the same lovely theme. A bottle of fine wine meant to age is like a library of flavours that develop throughout its existence.
Wine is a "cultural" beverage that is very much alive and develops countless nuances over time. That is why this long waiting period needs to be respected. It is crucial to the wine's evolution, so that it can deliver its very best.
1996 vintage. Moderately mild, wet conditions marked the months of April and May. While June started in clement conditions, the weather cooled down in the middle of the month, although without rain. The first ten days of July were cool and rainy,giving way to very hot, dry conditions from the 11th onwards. August was irregular for rainfall, but still good on the whole, with cool, dry weather settling in at the end of the month and until 25th September. Then came some lovely sunny days with cool northerly and easterly winds driving away the clouds and bringing with them some chilly nights. Showers and variable weather dominated from 25th September to 5th October. With a change in weather conditions announced, harvesting started on 23rd September and finished on 4th October. Quality of the Merlots was uneven, although some very good batches were picked on the 23rd and 24th. The Cabernet Franc were harvested from 28th September to 4th October and were excellent. They dominate in the blend of the 1996 vintage, with 56% balanced out by 44% of Merlot