Chateau Cheval Blanc Le Petit Cheval (Futures Pre-Sale) 2018
Blend: 70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
In the running for the top second wine of the vintage, the 2018 Le Petit Cheval checks in as 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc and has incredible quality for a second wine. Floral notes of black cherries, graphite, and smoked earth all emerge from this medium to full-bodied Saint-Émilion that has plenty of classic Cheval Blanc elegance and purity as well as length. It’s already seamless and hard to resist, and ideal for drinking over the coming two decades or so. Barrel Sample: 93-95.
Barrel Sample: 93-94
Juicy, precise and elegant, this is also extremely well balanced. It has soft black fruits, liquorice and gently smoked cedar. The sensation of density is almost hidden at first but in terms of numbers, the tannins are the highest since 2011. Through the palate the sensation increases to a soft two-point jab between tannins and fruit. Picked 11 September to 11 October. Fewer young plots are in the wine this year as the dryness of the summer meant some blockages, so they sold off 16% in bulk, with just 10% going into Petit Cheval (from five diverse plots of clay, gravel and sand). Drinking Window 2025 - 2040. Barrel Sample: 92
The present-day Cheval Blanc vineyards had vines at least as far back as the 18th century, as shown by Belleyme's map of the region dated 1764. Nearly a century later, the estate was acquired by the Fourcaud-Laussac family who owned it until 1998, when it was sold to Mr Bernard Arnault and Baron Albert Frère.
The vineyard is in a single block, and borders on the Pomerol appellation. An outstanding terror and unusual proportions of Cabernet Franc and Merlot give this great wine an absolutely unique flavor. Chateau Cheval Blanc has had a greater number of outstanding vintages than any other classified great growth over the past century.
Another unusual characteristic of Cheval Blanc is that once it reaches its peak, it maintains it for a very long time. This admirable wine is powerful, soft, rich, round and silky. It has tremendous fruit and elegance as well as exceptional quality from year to year.
Marked by its historic fortified village—perhaps the prettiest in all of Bordeaux, the St-Émilion appellation, along with its neighboring village of Pomerol, are leaders in quality on the Right Bank of Bordeaux. These Merlot-dominant red wines (complemented by various amounts of Cabernet Franc and/or Cabernet Sauvignon) remain some of the most admired and collected wines of the world.
St-Émilion has the longest history in wine production in Bordeaux—longer than the Left Bank—dating back to an 8th century monk named Saint Émilion who became a hermit in one of the many limestone caves scattered throughout the area.
Today St-Émilion is made up of hundreds of independent farmers dedicated to the same thing: growing Merlot and Cabernet Franc (and tiny amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon). While always roughly the same blend, the wines of St-Émilion vary considerably depending on the soil upon which they are grown—and the soils do vary considerably throughout the region.
The chateaux with the highest classification (Premier Grand Cru Classés) are on gravel-rich soils or steep, clay-limestone hillsides. There are only four given the highest rank, called Premier Grand Cru Classés A (Chateau Cheval Blanc, Ausone, Angélus, Pavie) and 14 are Premier Grand Cru Classés B. Much of the rest of the vineyards in the appellation are on flatter land where the soils are a mix of gravel, sand and alluvial matter.
Great wines from St-Émilion will be deep in color, and might have characteristics of blackberry liqueur, black raspberry, licorice, chocolate, grilled meat, earth or truffles. They will be bold, layered and lush.
One of the world’s most classic and popular styles of red wine, Bordeaux-inspired blends have spread from their homeland in France to nearly every corner of the New World, especially in California, Washington and Australia. Typically based on either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot and supported by Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, these are sometimes referred to in the US as “Meritage” blends. In Bordeaux itself, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates in wines from the Left Bank of the Gironde River, while the Right Bank focuses on Merlot. Often, blends from outside the region are classified as being inspired by one or the other.
In the Glass
Cabernet-based, Left-Bank-styled wines are typically more tannic and structured, while Merlot-based wines modeled after the Right Bank are softer and suppler. Cabernet Franc can add herbal notes, while Malbec and Petit Verdot contribute color and structure. Wines from Bordeaux lean towards a highly structured and earthy style whereas New World areas (as in the ones named above) tend to produce bold and fruit-forward blends. Either way, Bordeaux red blends generally have aromas and flavors of black currant, cedar, plum, graphite, and violet, with more red fruit flavors when Merlot makes up a high proportion of the blend.
Since Bordeaux red blends are often quite structured and tannic, they pair best with hearty, flavorful and fatty meat dishes. Any type of steak makes for a classic pairing. Equally welcome with these wines would be beef brisket, pot roast, braised lamb or smoked duck.
While the region of Bordeaux is limited to a select few approved grape varieties in specified percentages, the New World is free to experiment. Bordeaux blends in California may include equal amounts of Cabernet Franc and Malbec, for example. Occassionally a winemaker might add a small percentage of a non-Bordeaux variety, such as Syrah or Petite Sirah for a desired result.