Cheval Blanc to launch white wine / St Emilion grand cru Cheval Blanc will release a white wine later this month, making it the first major Right bank estate to do so.
Some 4,500 bottles of the 2014 vintage will be released at around £100 per bottle. Production is expected to rise to 20,000 bottles in the coming years. Decanter reports that the 100% Sauvignon Blanc wine is the result of an eight-year experiment. Three clones of Sauvignon Blanc were planted in 2008 on land acquired from La Tour du Pin Figeac, which lost its ranking in 2006.
The wine, which will be called ‘Le Petit Cheval Blanc’, breaks new ground for the Right Bank. Only a handful of estates in Saint Emilion make any wine under the AOC Bordeaux Blanc label, with the most high-profile – Jonathan Maltus’ ‘Le Nardain’ – produced in tiny amounts of just 250 cases per year.
THE CELLAR AT CHEVAL BLANC IS A WORK OF ART THAT IS ALSO EMINENTLY SUITED TO PRECISION WINEMAKING.
Designed by Christian de Portzamparc and inaugurated in June 2011, the cellar features two enormous waves of white concrete that rise magnificently out of the ground. There is a garden of wild grasses atop this artificial hill, whose gracious curves are overlooked by the château. The wine cellar lets in natural light and has a pure, simple design that seems out of time. It is entirely suited to Cheval Blanc.
The 6,000 m² cellar houses a state-of-the-art winemaking facility where technology is guided by man, and not the reverse. Human hands take precedence over machines. Despite its huge size, the building conveys a gentle, intimate atmosphere. The streamlined design leaves no room for the superfluous. Everything is kept in proportion, like the wines that are produced there...
Natural light penetrates into the vat room, with its fifty-two vats in six rows. Built in Italy, these concrete vats come in nine different sizes, from 20 to 110 hectolitres.
Each one is devoted to grapes from a different plot and displays two plaques: one permanent one with the number and the capacity of the vat, as well as another removable one showing the plot number, the grape variety, when the vines were planted, and when the grapes were put into vat. This "tailor-made" winemaking means that vats correspond exactly to individual vineyard plots, and is conducive to fine-tuning the final blend of wines from Cheval Blanc's homogeneous terroir. The cellar is fully in keeping with the château's extreme attention to detail throughout the winemaking process.
In fact, the Cheval Blanc cellar was the first in its category to be certified for the High Quality Environmental (HQE) standard. Known for its stringent criteria, this certification recognises the care taken in choosing building materials, energy saving, waste water management, and the sorting of solid waste, as well as acoustic comfort and employee well-being.
On the 20th of November 2013, the Cheval Blanc cellar received the famous International Architecture Award from the Chicago Athenaeum, a museum of architecture and design. The cellar also received an award from the Centre européen pour le Design d’Art architectural et d’Etudes urbaines. The latter recognises distinctive, avant-garde, innovative buildings. Cheval Blanc was the first wine cellar ever to receive this honour.
Work in the cellar begins with the harvest, as soon as the grapes come off the sorting table. The crushed grapes are put into small 450 kg vats, then transported to the fermentation vat that corresponds to their weight and the plot they came from. Every vat is filled three-quarters full by gravity flow, without pumping. The juice is left on the skins and alcoholic fermentation is ready to begin.
This starts on the second day due to the action of yeast. After about 12 hours of fermentation, the CO2 that is released pushes the skins to the top of the vat, where they form a cap. Three times a day, part of the translucent juice is pumped from the bottom of the vat up to the top to percolate through the cap. This pumping over is done delicately in order to obtain the highest-quality tannin. The operation takes place manually, and a technician makes sure to spray wine all over the cap. This pumping over is done less frequently as time goes on and comes to a halt when the desired relative density is attained. This is measured twice a day with a hydrometer. The other parameters are overseen by the château technical team and the cellarmaster, who takes a sample every morning from each vat.
The juice is left in contact with the cap in temperature-controlled vats for several days at a temperature of 28-30°C without manipulation. This post-fermentation phase helps to make the free run juice richer and more elegant, and the tannic texture more silky. The free run juice is put into another vat, and the marc is pressed. The various lots of press wine (approximately 10% of the total) are put into barrel to speed up clarification. The best lots will later become part of the château's second wine.
In order to preserve each plot’s taste profile, malolactic fermentation takes place in vat at a temperature of 20°C. This operation softens the acidity and stabilises the wine. It lasts for anywhere from three weeks to several months. Sulphur is added at the end of this second fermentation to avoid oxidation and any harmful bacteria. Only the smallest possible amount of chemical input products is used at the château during winemaking, which must remain as simple and natural as possible.
Cheval Blanc Cuts 2013 Wine Price Amid Bordeaux Pressure
By Guy Collins
Chateau Cheval Blanc, a leading wine estate in the Saint-Emilion district of Bordeaux, cut the price of its 2013 wines by 12 percent from the previous year amid pressure on the region’s growers after cold, wet weather affected the crop.
Cheval Blanc is offering the wine at 300 euros ($416) a bottle from Bordeaux wholesale merchants, according to data compiled by the Liv-ex wine market. That still leaves it 12 euros more costly than Chateau Lafite Rothschild, at 288 euros the most expensive of the left-bank first-growth estates.
Investors have been looking to so-called en primeur sales of 2013 wines, before they are bottled and delivered, to give impetus to Bordeaux prices, which have declined amid growing interest in wine from other regions. The Liv-ex Fine Wine 50 Index is heading for its eighth straight monthly drop and has declined more than 4 percent since the start of this year.
Growers have been under pressure to cut prices by 25 percent to 30 percent “to sell the vintage and get a bit of goodwill flowing again, especially as the 2013 vintage suffered from such poor growing conditions,” Will Beck, a partner at Wine Asset Managers LLP in London, said in a market report e-mailed April 23. “Some diehard and perennial primeur buyers are now opting for better value older vintages.”