This extraordinary St Emilion is never the showiest during the primeur tastings, but its class this year could not be questioned. A classical blend of 60% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Franc and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon. Refined and beautifully subtle with berry and currant aromas. The Cabernet Franc component provides a wonderful line of distinction and the Merlot adds a delicious degree of sweetness and volume. The tightly knit tannins provide greater depth and persistence on the finish. DR
The 2016 Cheval Blanc is a blend of 59% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Franc and (the return of) 3% Cabernet Sauvignon from the gravel soils since in this vintage the vines showed absolutely no stress. It delivers 14.25% alcohol with an IPT of 75 and a pH 3.67, which Pierre Lurton told me is a little lower than normal. As usual, it is matured in 100% new oak. It has a very pure, correct and quite penetrating bouquet with black cherries, blackcurrant, graphite and a touch of wild mint. It is bashful at first but opens with confidence with aeration (incidentally, I allowed my sample 40 minutes to open). The palate is medium-bodied with filigree tannin and a killer line of acidity that imparts so much freshness from the starting gun. That soupçon on Cabernet Sauvignon does make a difference, lending a subtle vein of graphite that runs throughout the wine. It remains linear, with laser-like focus towards the extraordinarily persistent finish, pencil lead on the "HB" aftertaste. This is a classic and intellectual Cheval Blanc, not as charming perhaps as the 2015 Cheval Blanc, but it will unquestionably age gracefully over decades not years. Drink Date 2024 - 2060
The property is divided into 45 different plots and each plot has made some grand vin in the last five years. This is from 33 plots. 38% Cabernet Franc, 59% Merlot. The remaining 3% is Cabernet Sauvignon, from a parcel that has been replanted with Cabernet Franc successively. But they have decided to recover this gravelly plot by the road to St-Émilion with Cabernet Sauvignon. This is the first year it's in the grand vin as a reflection of the traditional assemblage of Cheval Blanc. Tasty floral start and then quite rich. A bit of grainy astringency (from those concrete vats?) in terms of texture - by no means unpleasant. Lots of floral notes, hint of putty and then lovely richness underneath. Quite a contrast between nose and palate. Smudgy palate and precise nose. Tannins really present on the end. Very floral on the nose. Big gap! Not sweet!! Drink 2028-2045
This is very powerful Cheval with searing tannins and bright fruit, acidity and mineral undertones. Full and muscular yet beautifully formed and polished. It’s all about the form to this. Better than 2015.
A wine of precision and extraordinary beauty, the 2016 Cheval Blanc is also one of the highlights of the year. In the glass, it is precise, delicate and understated. Hints of espresso, plum, spice and wild cherry all develop in the glass, but it is the wine's feel and vivid personality that stand out most. I expect the 2016 will put on weight during its aging, both in barrel and later in bottle. It is an absolutely stunning wine in every way.
The production is 100000 bottles (the same as last year when they made no second wine). They were saved by the clay in the soil as this regulated the water amazingly and the resulting wine is dense, tannic and powerful but at the same time melodic, sensual and refreshing. Terrific richness and length and with superb gloss, this is a wine in perfect equilibrium and it signals a precision move for Cheval Blanc.
Cabernet Sauvignon makes a (small) appearance in the Grand Vin for the first time in ten years at Cheval in 2016. It’s a suitably dense, grippy, well-structured wine, with fine, savoury tannins, taut acidity, layers of dark plum and blackberry fruit and stylish oak. 2028-40
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.