Vinifications are literally coming to an end: with the running off of the last plot, the tanks now contain wine.
Malolactic fermentations run their course, the wines are fatter and softer.
While watching over each tank, our winery team is dedicated to the reception of new barrels that will host this vintage. They are to test and analyze them one by one, to ensure the absence of any pollution (contamination of wood that could bring aromatic deviations to the wines).
This is the beginning of écoulages. We separate the juice and the grape skins, considering that the extraction phase is complete. This decision is taken plot by plot. Each will remain isolated until the blending to be held in the heart of winter.
The maceration phase allowed the tanks to get a quite impressive and silky fat, while maintaining the freshness and tension inseparable of a beautiful Cheval Blanc.
We look forward to taste these wines after malolactic fermentation, which will be a decisive step in our approach to this vintage.
Today is the last day of the harvest, 34 days after mobilization of our teams to give birth to this exceptional vintage. These are the longest harvest of all Cheval Blanc history!
In total, over more than a month, only twelve days were devoted to the harvest, an average of one day picking every three days: the harvest à la carte.
In the daily tastings, we taste each tank, i.e. each plot. It becomes clear at this point that in 2015, only a few will be devoted to Petit Cheval, all others are qualified for Cheval Blanc.
The harvest progresses step by step, according to the maturities, without any urgency. We have harvested much of our Merlots and already eight of our twenty-two plots of Cabernet franc. As opposed to popular belief, soils far outweigh grape varieties, which is why we picked our gravel plots, Cabernet and Merlot together, before attacking our clay plots.
Based on the daily tastings of grapes, four plots of Merlot seem to have reached the ideal maturity. Some are traditionally early as 1A and 7, the others are usually later, 32 and 3A. Again, this is an illustration of the absence of systematization in our approach for maturity.
We enter today the heart of the harvest.
Each rainfall seems to have spared the right bank, so we have a great freedom for the picking strategy.
11.09.15Friday 28th August 2015
After a rather cool and wet period in mid-August (about 75 mm for the month, close to average), good weather settles permanently and allows a speedy maturation of the grapes.
At this stage, the vineyard is beautiful, the well distributed grapes on the vines look very colorful. Berries are very small, which suggests a vintage of great concentration.
Again, considering the scorching weather, we are happy never to cut the leaves on the western side, exposed to the sun in the afternoon. This practice preserves the aromatic freshness so dear to Cheval Blanc.
To everyone's surprise, we send our teams harvesting the first red plot of the vintage!
Indeed, this young vine of incredible potential combines this year factors of earliness: warm gravel soil, moderate rooting (due to his youth) and favorable weather conditions. Faithful to the style of the house, we pick on the freshness with still an impressive balance.
The few rains of late July were welcome as they allowed the generalization, acceleration, and homogenization of the véraison. This milestone passes remarkably well this year and seriously limits our usual procedure to cut some late green grapes.
The vine growth arrest is now reached on all our plots. The plant will now focus on grape ripening, rather than on the growth of its foliage. Therefore, the trimming frequency is greatly diminished this year.
While the dry and scorching conditions persist, the Cheval Blanc vineyard is thriving thanks to an excellent rooting (favored by the age of the vines and frequent ploughing). The plant can then find the freshness and moisture at depth, thanks to the clay subsoil.
On the earliest terroir of the estate, the vines have greatly slowed or halted their growth. This early cessation is often a good indicator of a great vintage in the making.
On the warmer soils, veraison (grapes coloring) snaps for Merlot.
Heat and drought are still moving up a notch. This is great news for the vine, because at this stage water scarcity generates low weight of berries and therefore a good concentration.
Only a young Merlot plot on gravelly soil (plot 19, planted in 2012) is suffering a bit because of its still shallow roots. That's why we decide to relieve by severe green harvesting (removal of a bunch out of of two) to allow it to get through this difficult step.
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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.