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May 28, 2015

Cheval Blanc 2014

Cheval

The long awaited 2014 Cheval Blanc has just released on the Place de Bordeaux. Cheval Blanc is the joint wine of the vintage for Neal Martin of the Wine Advocate, scoring 95-97 points. James Molesworth of the Wine Spectator follows suit, scoring it 96-99, echoed by Tim Atkin with 98 points. There is little doubt that this is an exceptional Cheval Blanc and one for the ages.

This morning’s release price represents a 13% increase on the 2013 and a 8% decrease on the 2012 ex-London. However, as one of the best Cheval Blancs of the last two decades it is instructive to draw comparison with the stellar 2005. The price of the 96 point scoring 2005 trades today at £4,300 giving one a strong incentive to buy the 2014 Cheval Blanc en primeur today, as it trades at a 22% discount and with a potentially higher score from bottle. The average annual production of Cheval Blanc is 6,000 cases — down slightly in 2014 — less than half of the leading left bank estates, while their Second Wine, Le Petit Cheval, produces 2,500 cases. Cheval Blanc’s global cachet, in addition to the exceptional quality of this vintage, make it a strong buy indeed.

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Since 2009 the second wines of the leading estates experience the same demand as the first wines, in fact, in many cases they prove rarer, this rings true with Le Petit Cheval. This has released today at £965 per case of 12 bottles. The 2014 Le Petit Cheval is one of their best ever efforts, scoring 90-92, which puts it on par with the 91 scoring 2009, this trades today at £1,150 and surpassing the 89 points 2005, which trades today at £1,180. Le Petit Cheval is sought after globally as it displays the characteristics that make Cheval Blanc great, yet at a third of the price.  Le Petit Cheval may be the foal of the stable, but less than half of the bottles are made of the Cheval Blanc and it is even rarer to find in older vintages.

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Cheval Blanc is one of the two original Grands Crus Classes A of St. Emilion and one of the greatest wines of the Right Bank. In 1998 it was purchased by the Chairman of Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy and owner of Chateau d’Yquem, Bernard Arnault and a Belgian businessman, Albert Frère. Pierre Lurton was appointed as estate manager and under his considerable talent the property has continued to flourish.

The estate is situated near Pétrus and even encroaches into the Pomerol commune. The vineyard has three distinct soil types: gravel, clay and sand, giving Cheval Blanc’s terroir the distinction of having the best characteristics of Pomerol, Graves and its native Saint-Emilion. Cheval Blanc is blended using a preponderance of Cabernet Franc over Merlot and this leads to a distinct freshness with high concentrations of fruit and a rich, enveloping bouquet.

Allegedly, Jacques Hebrard, the manager of the Château in the 1980s was once so outraged at critic Robert Parker’s score for the 1981 vintage that he insisted Parker return for another tasting. Parker agreed but upon his return was  attacked by Hebrard’s dog. When Parker asked Hebrard for something to stop the bleeding, Hebrard handed him a piece of paper containing Parker’s original unfavourable review. Parker, whether under duress or no, concurred the wine had improved since he last tasted it and amended his review in a later edition of his publication.  We at IG Wines,  no dog bite is needed to convince us that the Cheval Blanc 2014 is indeed one of the wines of the vintage and one worth having in your cellar.

Cheval Blanc 2014, 12×75 – £3,400 or 6×75 – £1,700 EP
The Wine Advocate, Neal Martin, 95-97
The Chateau Cheval Blanc 2014 is a blend of 45% Cabernet Franc and 55% Merlot, picked from 19 September until 8 October. The alcohol level is 13.25% matured in 100% new oak, which Pierre Lurton told me was prolonged due to the heterogenous soils and wanting to wait for the Cabernet Franc on clay soils to reach full maturity. It is quintessential Cheval Blanc on the nose: predominantly red fruit here rather than black, touches of incense and dried roses, a dab of liquorice underneath. The Cabernet Franc is the engine behind the aromatics. The palate is medium-bodied with grainy tannin. This is not a silky smooth Cheval Blanc – here there is an graininess to the tannin that exert a gentle grip in the mouth. It is a complex and cerebral wine with cracked black pepper on the almost ferrous finish. Like the second wine, it is linear and fresh, in some ways reminiscent of the string of superb wines produced in the 1980s. This is a formidable Cheval Blanc whose evolution will be fascinating to witness.
The Wine Spectator, James Molesworth, 96-99
Reserved aromatically for now, but this has a lot at its clutch, with remarkably silky plum, currant and raspberry fruit inlaid seamlessly with alder, rooibos tea and bergamot notes. There’s a fine minerality that stretches out the finish, with remarkable cut, delineation and finesse. This is gorgeous.—Tasted non-blind.
James Suckling, 95-96
There is a little more Cabernet Franc than normal. Full body with fine and silky tannins, and a deep and beautiful fruit and acid balance. Wet earth, dried flowers and dries fruits. A balanced length. Dense and compacted. Very fine tannins.

Le Petit Cheval 2014 - 12×75 – £965 or 6×75 – £482 EP
The Wine Advocate, Neal Martin, 90-92 points
The Le Petit Cheval 2014 is a blend of 52% Merlot and 48% Cabernet Franc, representing 25% of the production. Matured in 50% new oak and 50% one-year old wood, it has a voluminous bouquet with black olive-tinged, raspberry and wild strawberry fruit, hints of vanilla developing with aeration. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin. There is a linearity here, a strictness and poise. It does not have a fantail of concentrated fruit on the finish, but it does linger in the mouth and delivers an unexpected tang of Shezhuan pepper on the after taste. As my score implies, this deuxième vin is equal to many a Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé.
James Molesworth, Wine Spectator, 90-92 points
Very charming, with bright red currant and damson plum fruit, laced with a lively minerality and a lilting bergamot note. Long and silky, this is almost approachable now, but the acidity is so fine that this could be sneakily long-lived in the cellar.—Tasted non-blind. Score range: 91-94

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