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MINI-VERTICAL OF DOMAINE DE CHEVALIER'S RECENT FIVE WHITES
October 2nd, 2015
"Domaine de Chevalier, a jewel nestled deep in the pine trees of Bordeaux's Pessac-Léognan, has a long history of producing age-worthy reds and whites. Both show incredible depth of fruit and unique character from the stony soil of the vineyards that span across 45 hectares in Graves.
Many of the reds from the 1950s and 1960s are still excellent now, and its recent vintages seem to hark back to the halcyon days of great winemaking from this estate. In fact, the past eight or nine years could be the best vintages ever from here, says James. Its humble red from the 2013 vintage reminds James of their wines from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s – vintages that could compete with the classic Graves such as Haut-Brion or La Mission Haut-Brion.
Its 2012 red, for instance, shows outstanding aging potential and its latest2014 vintage is already balanced and fine when James tasted it from barrel this year.
But what truly made this winery a world-class estate and a fixture on most wine aficionados’ and collectors’ list is invariably its whites. A blend of semilion and sauvignon blanc, the wines often fetch lofty prices at auctions along with top names such as Haut Brion Blanc and La Mission Haut Brion Blanc. And it ages incredibly well.
Its 2010 blanc is a near perfect wine that shows amazing density and character. One would imagine its 2011 vintage would be hard to compete with the previous year, especiall given the difficult growing season in Bordeaux, its 2011 blanc, however, turns out to be phenomenal quality and is one of the top Bordeaux 2014 releases rated by James. In fact, the success of the vintage for the wine illustrates how great 2011 is for dry white Bordeaux as James wrote earlier, calling it “a year to buy white wines from Bordeaux”. The wine is on pour at our Great Wines of the World event in Hong Kong on November 5 at Four Seasons Hotel. This is your chance to taste the pinnacle of Bordeaux white, get your ticket here.
One thing that impresses James about the chateau's whites is their complexity that is often seen in reds, but rarely in whites. Its 2012 blanc reminds James of the complex character found in a Pessac-Léognan red, and its 2013 blanc has more weight than the reds made in 2013, says James. Its latest 2014 blanc is another stellar wine, dense and mascular with layers of fruit as James comments in the tasting note.
The Bernard family, who purchased the winery in 1983, have everything to do with the sucess of the chateau and with the stellar whites and reds vintage after vintage, they are one of the best winemakers in Bordeaux right now. Below are five whites from 2010 to 2014, ranked by score; click on the names for notes and scores. Natalie Wang, managing editor JamesSuckling.com"
Domaine de Chevalier blanc 2014 : A solid and muscular Domaine de Chevalier with layers of fruit. Very dense, loads of flavor. Full body, bright acidity and a long, long finish. Tangy acidity. It lasts for minutes. 95-96 (March 27th, 2015)
Domaine de Chevalier blanc 2013 : This white is so dense and powerful, with a finish that lasts for minutes. Pear, lemon, grapefruit and loads of minerals. Has more weight than all the red wines made in 2013. Full body. Profound depth. I look forward to tasting this from bottle in a few years. 97-98 (April 4th, 2014)
Domaine de Chevalier blanc 2012 : This is very tender and pretty with very fine elements. Dried lemons, minerals and lilac as well as character of oyster shell and iodine. Full body, yet refined and long. You normally see this sort complex character in reds from Pessac-Leognan. Fascinating young white. 95 (November 14th, 2013)
Domaine de Chevalier blanc 2011 : Amazing nose of dried fruits from peaches to apples to mangos. Pink grapefruit too. Full and very powerful white with an incredible length and intensity. It's like a beautiful block of velvet in your mouth. It goes on for minutes. It becomes so mineraly and subtly fruity at the end. Turns just to honey. Wow 97-98 (April 1st, 2012)
Domaine de Chevalier blanc 2010 : A white with a phenomenal density and richness with creme brulee, apple pie and pear tart character. It's so agile and balanced. Full body, with tangy fruit and a long finish. Crazy intensity and style to this. Speechless. Best dry white from here. Try in 2018. 99 (November 14th, 2013)
Area of production: 5 ha
Average production: 18.000 bottles
Age of vines: ~35 years
Olivier Bernard's extensive project at Domaine de Chevalier has really come to fruition. After a bold and not to mention expensive re-planting program throughout the `80s and then a decade and a half of patience for the vines to gain maturity, we can really see the benefits. 2005, 2008, 2009 and now 2010 rank amongst the very best wines produced in this sprawling commune. Powerful but graceful, true to their terroir, and just so enjoyable to drink; this has become one of our 'must buy' estates. Olivier's wines offer 'super second' class at relatively affordable prices.
After the much-awaited and much-vaunted 2009 vintage, which has fully lived up to expectations, was Mother Nature really capable of bestowing another great vintage on Bordeaux the following year? Considering the weather patterns over the summer and analysis of the grapes during the 2010 harvest, the cautious answer was "Yes, maybe". However, once fermentation finished, the answer became "Yes, probably". By late March, the strategy for the final blend has been decided, so we can answer that 2010 will most certainly be a great and even a very great year for both red and white wines.
As an introduction to this vintage appraisal, it is always useful to refer to the five conditions that "make" a perfect vintage for red Bordeaux.
- 1) (2) Early, rapid flowering and fruit-set during weather that is sufficiently warm and dry to ensure pollination and predispose toward simultaneous ripening,
- (3) The gradual onset of water stress thanks to a warm, dry month of July in order to slow down and then put a definitive stop to vine growth during véraison (colour change),
- (4) Full ripening of the various grape varieties thanks to dry and warm (but not excessively so) weather in the months of August and September,
- (5) Fine (dry and medium-warm) weather during the harvest making it possible to pick at mid-ripeness without running the risk of dilution or rot.
Even though flowering in Merlot was not ideal due to slightly cool, wet weather in June that caused coulure (shot berries), millerandage ("hens and chickens"), and low yields, 2010 fits all the above conditions thanks to a remarkably dry summer (but without any heat waves) that continued into a sunny, medium-warm autumn with average precipitation. The vines underwent greater and more widespread water stress in 2010 than in 2009. In that respect, 2010 is more similar to 2005 than 2009.
The moderately warm daytime temperatures and cool nights in August and September encouraged the synthesis of aroma precursors and maintained good acidity in the grapes. This means that 2010 was also a very great vintage for white wines, as much for Sauvignon Blanc as for Sémillon.
The development of noble rot at the right time, as soon as the grapes are ripe, i.e. sufficiently sweet, but potentially fruity and still retaining good acidity, determines whether a vintage will be great in Sauternes and Barsac. This calls for alternating periods of mist or fog (conducive to the spread of botrytis) and drier, warmer, or more windy periods to concentrate the grapes. Without being as tremendously concentrated as 2009, 2010 will undoubtedly be a great vintage for sweet white Bordeaux, and a fitting end to an outstanding decade with an uninterrupted run of good-to-excellent vintages, the like of which has never been seen in the region.
Early and fairly quick flowering at the beginning of June, followed by satisfactory fruit