THE ESTATE

A unique living patchwork of forty-five plots

THE ESTATE

Located in the commune of Saint-Emilion, but bordering on Pomerol, the estate consists of 39 hectares divided into forty-five plots. Each one is, to a certain extent, treated like a separate vineyard because of the differences in the age of the vines, grape variety, soil type, etc. The combination of these many facets accounts for Cheval Blanc's great complexity.

What makes Cheval Blanc so unusual is three main soil types – fine textured with clay, more coarsely textured with gravel, and large gravel with sand – that constitute a veritable patchwork.   This singular terroir is made up primarily of clay and large-size gravel in certain plots and sandy soil with smaller gravel in other parts. Some estates in Saint-Emilion have excellent gravelly soil, while others in Saint-Emilion and Pomerol have very good clay soils.  Cheval Blanc, on the other hand, is blessed with both types of soil in fairly equal proportions.

The most is made of this natural advantage thanks to an original combination of grape varieties: 49% Cabernet Franc, 47% Merlot, and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon. Each plot has its own specific profile due to the age of the vines, surface area, kind of soil, type of rootstock and grape variety, etc.  Therefore, it only follows that the wine produced from each plot has its own profile too.

The ones from clay soil are powerful with velvety tannin, while the ones from gravel soil are more aromatic and elegant. A blend of both results in a wine that is both powerful and elegant with expressive aromatics as well as the complexity of the greatest wines.

Experiments have been conducted with every possible permutation of soil types and the three grape varieties. Soil temperatures were measured throughout the growing season in the context of this research, as well as the water supply and mineral absorption by the vines.
 

Phenological surveys were regularly carried out and ripening was closely monitored. Tiny batches of grapes are also fermented to test the results. The purpose of all these techniques was to find the most appropriate grape variety for each different terroir.

In fact, not only the characteristics of each plot come into play, but also those of the 237,288 individual wines rooted in Cheval Blanc's soil! Each one can be easily identified in its corresponding plot by row number and position in the row. Indeed, every vine has its own identity.
However, above and beyond the complexity of the soil and variety of vines, Château Cheval Blanc is very much of a whole, with a strong identity of its own.

This unity is evidenced by boundaries that have remained virtually unchanged for many years. Château Cheval Blanc is one of the rare estates with vines in a single plot that has remained practically identical for nearly a century and a half.  The estate has the same configuration as in 1871, and the current area corresponds over 90% to that in 1911. This continuity is also to be found in the proportion of grape varieties. In 1911, the share of Cabernet Franc was also close to 50%.

The estate has almost
the same configuration
as in 1871

 

Cheval Blanc only really changed hands once in over 150 years. This stable management maintained the same vineyard profile decade after decade.
Such a long-term perspective has made it possible for Château Cheval Blanc to maximise the vineyard's rich diversity to produce a world-famous wine.

In order to preserve this unique balance, newly-planted vines have been propagated from cuttings taken from the estate. The average age of the vines is 42 years, but the oldest plots go back to 1920. Replanting is done at a very slow rate – just one hectare every three years. This means that, year in and year out, the heart of Cheval Blanc's vineyard remains intact.

It goes without saying that the quality of a wine starts out in the vineyard. This is why the utmost care is taken there, and nothing short of perfection is aimed for to perpetuate the vineyard's extraordinary qualities. It is also why a mass selection programme was begun in 1996. All the Cabernet Franc vines are now replanted uniquely with cuttings taken from the estate. The parent vines are obviously ones with outstanding quality potential. They are quite old – some of them a century old – and very resistant. Each one has the necessary qualities to make very great wine:

small, loose, evenly balanced bunches with deeply-coloured little berries and low yields. These selected high-quality vines are used to propagate new vine plants in order to preserve their superior characteristics.

A major research programme, combined with unstinting efforts day in and day out, guarantee Cheval Blanc's identity. It is now certain that the soul of this great wine will be preserved for generations to come. The common thread running through past and future is the same quest for perfection.