10 things you should know about Chateau Cheval Blanc
1. It was once part of Chateau Figeac
Back in the mid-19th century, the famed Chateau Figeac had grown into a massive 200-hecatre estate. Its eventual breakup helped to create a myriad of Saint Emilion estates, of which Chateau Cheval Blanc is one. Its original owners, the Ducasse family, purchased the land from Figeac in 1838.
2. It’s one of the most modern wineries in Saint Emilion
The facility has undergone numerous renovations in its lifetime, and now sits at the very forefront of winemaking techniques in Bordeaux. It was the first estate in the Right Bank to add drainage to its vineyards, for example, and it now boasts a $20 million cellar with 52 temperature-controlled cement vats of varying sizes, allowing specific parcels of vines to be vinified individually.
3. It has a unique terroir
The vineyard is spread over 41 hectares, with one-third located on the boundary of Pomerol and therefore on the sandy clay and blue clay soil enjoyed by famous neighbours such as Chateau Petrus. Unusually for a Saint Emilion estate, Cabernet Franc makes up the bulk of the vineyard – founder Monsior Ducasse is said to have planted this variety as it was a personal favourite of his.
4. It’s one of Saint Emilion’s ‘fantastic four’
Cheval Blanc is classified as a Premier Grand Cru Classe (A), an honour it shares with just three other estates: Chateau Ausone, Chateau Angelus and Chateau Pavie.
5. Its 1947 vintage is a record breaker
Only a few thousand cases of the revered 1947 Cheval Blanc were ever produced, with most consumed shortly after its release, so it’s an in-demand vintage. In 2010 it set a new world record for the most expensive bottle of Bordeaux ever, when a collector spent an eye-watering £192,000 on an imperial at a sale in Geneva.
6. Its high-alcohol wines buck ageing trends
As a general rule of thumb, wines with a higher alcohol volume don’t age as well as their lighter counterparts. Cheval Blanc’s boozy wines are a clear exception. Both the 1947 and 1929 vintages reached an impressive 14.4% alcohol, but under the right conditions are still considered two of the most sublime and drinkable wines available today.
7. Every vintage is in demand
According to drinks database wine-searcher.com, the wines of Cheval Blanc are some of the most sought-after globally, and take ninth spot on its list of the 10 most-wanted wines of all time.
8. It has white second wine
Cheval Blanc’s original second wine, Le Petit Cheval, made its debut with the 1988 vintage. In 2014, however, the chateau released another second wine, Petit Cheval Blanc – the product of 10 years of wine craftsmanship and made from small parcels of Sauvignon and Semillon grapes from the property.
9. It has an impressive silver screen resume
Cheval Blanc has appeared in numerous films and TV shows. The film Sideways features the 1961 vintage as a major plot element, while Sean Connery’s 007 drinks a glass of the Grand Vin in Never Say Never Again. Meanwhile, the famed 1947 vintage makes an appearance in the 2007 Disney film Ratatouille, and the character of Niles in TV’s Frasier announces “What kind of weak-willed man allows a woman to come between him and a 1981 Cheval Blanc.”
10. Critic Robert Parker was attacked by the manager’s dog
A popular story recounted among wine circles is that of Robert Parker’s visit to Chateau Cheval Blanc in the 1980s. The manager Jacques Hebrard was said to be so incensed at Parker’s evaluation of his 1981 vintage barrel samples that invited the critic back for a re-tasting, and when his dog attacked Parker’s leg, simply stood idly by and did nothing. This tale has been confirmed by Parker himself, although he did say that despite the attack he decided he’d been too harsh and marked the wine upwards!