Château Cheval Blanc
with Pierre Lurton

“This is not,” Pierre Lurton told us, “a St Emilion classic. The uniqueness of this château is in its grape varieties.” The property is planted to around 60% cabernet franc and 40% merlot, with just a bit of cabernet sauvignon. The proportion of the grape varieties making up Cheval Blanc changes each year, though always with a high proportion of cabernet franc: “You make the wine in the vineyard, not the cellar,” as Pierre Lurton is fond of saying. He exemplified this, when discussing acidification: “acidification is a bad reflex: picking is important. The solution for freshyness [sic] is the early picking and the irrigation.” That holds for Cheval Blanc itself, at least, though he had to admit that the 2003 Cheval des Andes had to be lightly acidified. In Argentina, Pierre Lurton pointed out, “the over-ripening is very easy. That is a pity.”

2001 Cheval des Andes
Cheval des Andes, Cheval Blanc’s Argentinian cousin, is typically a blend of malbec and cabernet sauvignon. The 2001 is, according to Pierre Lurton more austere and drier than normal, with greater use of wood.
It’s an even ruby colour, just starting to mature. The nose is full of black fruit with a hint of licorice. Ripe and concentrated on the palate. Decent balance. Very solid tannins on the finish. Very Good/Very Good Indeed. 88/100

2002 Cheval des Andes
2002 was, according to Pierre Lurton, a particularly good vintage in Argentina. This wine has the colour of very dark, black plum skins with lots of youth: very glass-coating. There’s more concentration and more fruit on the nose than in the 2001, but there’s also a nice fragrance to it. On the palate, it’s very full, ripe and concentrated. Nice balance. Slightly softer tannins than the 2001. Very Good Indeed. 90/100

1997 Le Petit Cheval
A good even ruby. Quite an elegant nose. Open and restrained on the palate. Soft and relatively easy drinking. Good style. Very Good+ 87/100

1998 Le Petit Cheval
“A very great Petit Cheval,” according to Pierre Lurton. Deepish ruby appearance. The nose has black fruits with a touch of mushrooms. Rather nice on the palate. Elegant and very clean, with a nice texture. A very impressive wine indeed. Very Good Indeed. 92/100

2000 Le Petit Cheval
“Oof!” exclaimed Pierre Lurton, “For me this is a silky, velvety wine. I reserve the cashmere for Cheval Blanc.” An even mid ruby. A touch weedy on the nose: hedgerows and hedgerow fruits reveal themselves with aeration, together with some chocolate notes. He’s right, it is very silky on the attack. Very elegant, with lovely balance. Soft-grained tannins on the finish. More more finesse than the 1998. Very Good Indeed+. 94/100

2001 Château Cheval Blanc
A very even, remarkably mature mauve. A very open, quite mature nose with mushrooms and lots of berry fruits. There are some ripe, rich flavours on the attack – almost some cocoa flavours in there. Good elegance. Very good length. This is one of the best wines at this tasting. Excellent. 96/100

1999 Château Cheval Blanc
The 1999 is unusual, and much more Pomerol like, in that it has a higher proportion of merlot than usual (60% merlot) because of difficulties with cabernet franc that year. This has a darker, younger appearance than the 2001, and is much plummier on the nose, with some fresh pears. Smooth and easy on the palate. A significantly simpler wine than the 2001 and, all in all, not really terribly impressive. Good/Very Good. 86/100

2000 Château Cheval Blanc
“Oo la la,” murmured Pierre Lurton, before going on to say that this was “not the classic vintage of Cheval Blanc.” It’s a young, fairly dark ruby colour. A lovely nose: ripe and restrained, with some chocolate, some blackcurrant, maybe even some currants. Good palate. Ripe flavours, but all in nice balance. This doesn’t quite have the elegance of the 2001, which I prefer. Very Good Indeed. 92/100

1998 Château Cheval Blanc
This is not ready to drink, according to Pierre Lurton, and needs another ten years.
A good even colour. The nose is quite gorgeous with lovely black fruits: very deep and complex, with some digestive biscuits thrown in. This is so silky and smooth, and quite stunning on the palate. It has depth, body, elegance and finesse, together with a very fine finish and huge elegance after. Excellent. 97/100

1995 Château Cheval Blanc
An even mid-ruby, starting to mature, with no youthful tones remaining. There’s a touch of over-ripe merlot on the nose, together with truffley mushrooms, roast coffee and plenty of orange peel notes. A big, wide palate with some sweet fruit. Excellent balance. But less style and elegance than the 1998 and 2001. Very Good Indeed. 92/100

1986 Château Cheval Blanc
A fairly mature, very even bricking ruby. Earthy and truffley on the nose, and maybe a touch high-toned. There are also black fruit and plenty of violets, together with a touch of cedar. Massive elegance and finesse immediately on the palate, followed by lovely freshness. Very impressive. Excellent. 95/100

1989 Château Cheval Blanc
A very similar appearance to the 1986. Lovely nose – very refined with a good, pure, blackcurrant streak. Very elegant on the palate, with a silky, chocolatey mouthfeel. Very fresh (possibly a touch high-toned?) on the palate. Impressive. Very Good Indeed/Excellent. 94/100.

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Last updated: 27 April 2006