robertparker.comScore: WA 100
The 2016 Cheval Blanc is blended of 59.5% Merlot, 37.2% Cabernet Franc and 3.3% Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep garnet-purple in color, the nose is incredibly youthful yet not so shy as some other 2016s at this stage, giving wonderfully intense scents of red currants, black cherries, wild blueberries and violets with nuances of star anise, cinnamon stick, rose hip tea, cigar box and wood smoke plus a touch of beef drippings. Medium to full-bodied, the palate has jaw-dropping elegance and depth, offering up layer upon layer of fragrant red and black fruits plus an extraordinary array of mineral sparks, supported by a rock-solid grainy texture, finishing with epic persistence and an edifying perfume. This is a very different style from the rich, opulently hedonic 2015, yet this wonderfully fragrant, beautifully poised and intellectually compelling 2016 is equally extraordinary.
“We have a clay subsoil, which is great for managing the dry spells,” Cheval Blanc’s technical director, Pierre-Olivier Clouet, informed me regarding the 2016 vintage. And this is certainly true of a significant portion of this relatively large estate (for the Right Bank), which is mainly composed of gravel or sand over clay, while a smaller area is made up of deeper gravel. “If we want to find the right balance between freshness of fruit and the dry spells, we need some water,” Clouet smiled matter-of-factly. One of the most significant developments here in recent years is the degree of precision viticulture that is now practiced at Cheval Blanc. For example, the 39-hectare vineyard has been subdivided and is now farmed as 45 different plots, based on grape variety, age of vines and soil type. To accommodate these separately managed plots, the new cellar contains 52 vats available in nine different sizes (20 hectoliters to 110 hectoliters), designed to correspond to the harvest from each plot, which are vinified separately. This affords a whole other level of control when it comes to selection and, ultimately, ensuring consistency of quality. “From 2016 we have a little Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend as we did historically, but it disappeared when the plots were replanted,” Clouet went on to tell me. “We replanted 1.4 hectares in 2014 and will start using it in the blends, looking to achieve about 5% eventually.”
Vinous | Neil Martin
The 2016 Cheval Blanc is the first year that replanted Cabernet Sauvignon was included in the Grand Vin. This has an intense, tightly wound bouquet that unwinds with aeration, maintaining stunning delineation and precision and offering scents of blackberry, briar and graphite and a faint hint of dark chocolate. The palate is very harmonious, precise and classic in style, and a little spicier than I recall from barrel. The oak is seamlessly integrated, and the pixelated, fresh, marine-tinged finish lingers in the mouth. Wow! Very different from the more rounded 2015 Cheval Blanc, though this might end up being the more classic but cerebral proposition.