Vines have been grown at the place named Cheval Blanc for centuries and the vineyard of Saint-Emilion has produced wines of outstanding quality year after year, decade after decade, since late antiquity… they are some of the most acclaimed in the world – and the mythical Château Cheval Blanc is at their forefront.
Although the exact location of the first vines grown in Bordeaux is unknown, the vestiges of luxurious villas – the ancestors of today’s wine châteaux – have been found in Saint-Emilion. One such villa belonged to Ausone (Ausonius in Latin), poet-winemaker and Roman Consul in the 4th century AD. The expansion of the Saint-Emilion vineyards continued through the centuries, especially during the Middle Ages. The creation and development of the port of Libourne in the 12th century, during the English occupation, led to thriving maritim trade that spread the reputation of Saint-Emilion wines throughout Europe. They were already considered of superlative quality at the time, with unusual ageing potential, and were often given as special gifts to royalty and other important people. Poetically referred to as “the hill with a thousand châteaux”, Saint-Emilion has a colourful history. Skilled and enthusiastic winegrowers have long contributed to its stellar reputation.
The appellation surrounds the eponymous medieval town on a limestone plateau situated east of Libourne, where the Isle and Dordogne rivers meet. Château Cheval Blanc has an altogether unique terroir in Saint-Emilion. While most of the appellation’s other famous estates have limestone soil dating from the Tertiary Period, Cheval Blanc’s soil features alluvia from the Quaternary Period deposited by the Isle. And like most of the prestigious estates in Pomerol, Cheval Blanc’s soil formation has a varied texture that does not include limestone. However, Cheval Blanc is also different – and unique – in that the proportion of gravel and clay is just about equal. This gift of nature is essential in understanding the estate’s history.
I was surprised by how soft, opulent, even voluptuous the 2001 Cheval Blanc performed out of bottle as this estate’s wines tend to shut down when young. Its deep ruby/purple color was accompanied by sweet aromas of cranberries, black currants, menthol, Asian spices, and underbrush. This seductive blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Franc reveals a lush sweetness, medium body, and ripe, well-integrated tannin. A racy effort filled with personality, it should be at its finest between 2007-2018. [93 Points, Robert M. Parker, Jr. – June 2004, robertparker.com]