I seriously underestimated this wine, as I have often tended to do with Cheval Blanc. A potentially immortal example that has gained significant weight since it has been bottled, this blend of 55% Cabernet Franc and 45% Merlot has a saturated purple color and a glorious nose of menthol, plums, mulberries, new saddle leather, cocoa, and vanilla. Remarkably fuller-bodied than I ever remembered it young, with an amazingly seamless texture and tremendous concentration and extract, this full-bodied yet gorgeously pure and elegant wine is impeccably balanced and certainly one of the all-time great Cheval Blancs. If it continues to improve as much as it has over the last three years since bottling, this wine will certainly rival the 2000, 1990, and 1982. Anticipated maturity: 2009-2030.
This blend of 55% Cabernet Franc and 45% Merlot exhibits a dark ruby/purple color as well as classic aromas of menthol, plums, mulberries, and assorted black fruits. The oak, texture, acidity, and tannin are all beautifully integrated. While full-bodied, elegant, concentrated, and impeccably balanced, it requires several years of cellaring. Anticipated maturity: 2004-2020.
This offering is just beginning to put on more weight and reveal the multiple dimensions that Cheval Blanc can achieve. An extremely difficult wine to judge young because of the high percentage of Cabernet Franc in the blend, the dark ruby/purple-colored 1998 possesses medium body, and a gorgeously sweet nose of black fruits, flowers, minerals, and toast. Rich and expansive, with a silky texture, a sexy, exotic personality, and an elegant, stylish, creamy-textured finish, it is weightier, thicker, and richer than when tasted in spring, 1999. If it continues to develop, the above score will appear stingy. I like the direction of this wine's evolution. Anticipated maturity: 2004-2020.
Cheval Blanc harvested its Merlot in mid to late September, and the Cabernet Franc after the rains of September 27 and 28. Yields were a modest 32 hectoliters per hectare, and approximately 72% of the production went into the grand vin. The 1998's final blend was 52% Merlot and 48% Cabernet Franc. A beautifully made Cheval, it may be the finest effort since 1990, although it does not possess that vintage's over-ripeness and opulence. Nevertheless, it is an impressive, sweet, distinctive wine with a deep dark ruby/purple color, and aromas of blackberry liqueur, vanillin, coconut, and a touch of coffee. The 1998 is elegant and sweet, with surprisingly good fatness, medium body, and well-integrated, velvety tannin. This wine can be difficult to taste young (because of the high percentage of Cabernet Franc), and often puts on considerable weight, meriting an even higher score after several years. That being said, the 1998 performed extremely well for such a young Cheval Blanc. Anticipated maturity: 2002-2016.
Several years ago, 10 of the world's top wine specialists were asked if they could own a wine estate, which one would it be. At least 5 of them said Château Cheval Blanc. Indeed, this château is like no other. Wonderfully silky and smooth yet powerful, Cheval Blanc is often approachable when young yet has the capacity to age for many years. Its unusually high proportion of Cabernet Franc (usually 50% or more) accompanied by Merlot has undoubtedly contributed to its allure.
South of Pomerol lies the medieval, perched village of St Emilion. Surrounding St Emilion are vines that produce round, rich and often hedonistic wines. Despite a myriad of soil types, two main ones dominate - the gravelly, limestone slopes that delve down to the valley from the plateau and the valley itself which is comprised of limestone, gravel, clay and sand. Despite St Emilion's popularity today, it was not until the 1980s to early 1990s that attention was brought to this region. Robert Parker, the famous wine critic, began reviewing their Merlot-dominated wines and giving them hefty scores. The rest is history as they say. Similar to the Médoc, there is a classification system in place which dates from 1955 and outlines several levels of quality. These include its regional appellation of St Emilion, St Emilion Grand Cru, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé and St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé, which is further divided into "A" (Ausone and Cheval Blanc) and "B" (including Angélus, Canon, Figeac and a handful of others). To ensure better accuracy, the classification is redone every 10 years enabling certain châteaux to be upgraded or downgraded depending on on the quality of their more recent vintages.