Just when you thought we might be Bordeaux-ed out, what with our sensational Bordeaux 10 Years On: 2005 tasting which took place last Thursday (blog and results to follow - watch this space!), we had the great pleasure of a visit from Cheval Blanc. Great friend of BI Arnaud de Laforcade and Technical Director Pierre Olivier Clouet were spending a few days in London and joined us in the BI office for a fascinating exploration of the wines from both the Cheval Blanc estate itself and their sister estate, Quinault l'Enclos. Their mission was threefold: first, to share some great bottles with us, showing how the estate performs across a variety of vintages; second, to give those who were perhaps not fully aware of the history and geological makeup of the estate some great info and insight; and third, to show in particular how the wines of Quinault l'Enclos, a relatively recent purchase and addition to the owner's portfolio, are being adapted and moulded each year to bring them into the style they desire.
First up was a short flight of Quinault l'Enclos, made up of 2010, 2011 and 2012. It would be very easy to assume that this would be a straightforward test, with the 2010 being by far superior. This would be an incorrect assumption. Whilst there is no doubt that 2010 shows immense depth and rich fruit, with a solid structure and good freshness, it was the 2012 which really captured the imagination. More on the red fruit spectrum than black, with gorgeous raspberry and wild strawberry characters, it was extremely pretty and beautifully balanced. This really felt like a classical St Emilion, whereas the 2010 would, I suspect, be picked blind as a Pomerol... Certainly from Clouet's point of view, the 2012 is the style of wine they want to make at Quinault. The 2011 was in a rather awkward phase, with the tannins rather green and hard, despite a very attractive red fruit and mineral nose. Time will tell whether this will come around.
Quinault l'Enclos 2010 - 89pts BI
Quinault l'Enclos 2011 - 87pts BI
Quinault l'Enclos 2012 - 90+pts BI
The Cheval flights showed both the Grand Vin and the excellent second wine, Petit Cheval. We started with a pair of 2011s which both rather reflected the situation with the Quinault; pretty, floral, strawberry and redcurrant on the nose, with some spice and toast and a decent splash of minerality on the Grand Vin, these promised something rather more than they were able to deliver on the palate. 2011 certainly is feeling rather awkward on the Right Bank at the moment.
Petit Cheval 2011 - 90pts BI
Cheval Blanc 2011 - 91+pts BI
The second pairing was more interesting - Petit Cheval 2010 and Cheval Blanc 2009. The step up into these fine, powerful vintages is so, so clear. Petit Cheval 2010 was, as with the Quinault, on the dark fruit side of things but with a fabulous floral lift. Black cherry, ripe plum and a sumptuous texture made it pretty approachable already - but there's plenty of tannin here too. The Cheval 2009 is a thing of beauty. The nose is so rich and complex, with that great bright red fruit underpinned by pure plum, and you can almost smell the limestone - such a clear expression of the vineyard. This really shows the unique location of Cheval, caught on the boundary of St Emilion and Pomerol; it's a perfect, pure and powerful blend of the two. A stunning wine.
Petit Cheval 2010 - 93pts BI
Cheval Blanc 2009 - 97+pts BI
Back to horizontal for the next pair, the 2006s. Now having only just completed our 2005 horizontal tasting, those of us who are keenly involved with organising these events are already mindful of the 2006 tasting next year... Considering how well the Cheval 2005 was showing on Thursday, and that means - very well indeed - this was bound to be interesting. But it was more than that: it was fabulous, in both wines. This is Cheval Blanc at its prettiest, beautifully floral and elegant with stunning freshness and pure red fruit with just a hint of Pomerol black fruit richness. What was most surprising was how approachable both wines were. The Cheval showed more depth, a richer texture and a firmer structure which suggests it will last much longer than its little brother - but if you want to find out what the Cheval fuss is about, you could do much worse than to seek out some Petit Cheval 2006 and get stuck into it. Beautiful stuff.
Petit Cheval 2006 - 92pts BI
Cheval Blanc 2006 - 95pts BI
The final wine of the tasting, and perhaps the hardest to assess, was the 2000 Cheval Blanc. We were perhaps overly excited about this wine, with the 2000s generally being our current favourite vintage for drinkers and investors; and yet, the wine was a little... Confusing. The nose seemed rather mature - very attractive indeed, with masses of ripe red fruit, which was moving a little into cooked fruit on the edges - but if anything, a little more loose in structure than we were expecting. Thinking perhaps it needed more time and air, as these wines often do, I kept the glass on my desk for a few more hours, revisiting every now and again. It certainly shook off the slightly less welcome cooked notes and the fruit became more pure and expressive, but it still wasn't quite reaching the heights we were perhaps hoping for. I have a feeling the wine is in an awkward phase and may yet reach another level of expressiveness. How long this will take, I have no idea... A good excuse to keep trying it I suppose!
Cheval Blanc 2000 - 94pts BI
All in all a great way to spend a Friday morning. Huge thanks to Arnaud and Pierre Olivier for coming to share these wines with us.