Pierre-Olivier Clouet

1999 Vintage by Pierre-Olivier Clouet, Technical Director from Château Cheval Blanc

This was a warm, but not a dry year, with generous yields. The wines are delicious and opened up quite early although they continue to provide a great deal of pleasure.

WEATHER CONDITIONS AND VINE’S GROWING CYCLE

TEMPERATURES AND RAINFALL

The winter of 1999 was mild, with just about average rainfall.  This was also a warm year, making for early phenolic maturity.  Summer precipitation was close to average, and showers were spread out evenly. September was warm and wet.

WATER BALANCE

In order to grow well, the vine needs for water stress to set in slowly so the grapes to ripen well and become concentrated. On the whole, rainfall was fairly regular this year. However, the high temperatures caused significant evaporation, despite the lack of any one extremely dry period. Moderately strong water stress set in starting in early September.

GROWING SEASON

The 1999 growing season was largely in keeping with average weather conditions since 1996. Mid-véraison occurred on the 2rd of August for Merlot and the 8th of August for Cabernet Franc. There was little discrepancy between different plots of the same grape variety. Véraison took place very quickly, presaging homogeneous ripening.  Vegetative growth stopped late in the season.  Merlot was picked between the 14th and 21st of September, and mostly before rain on the 19th of September.  It was Cabernet Franc's turn from the 22nd to the 28th of September.

Phenological stage Merlot
1999
Average 1994-2014 Cabernet franc
1999
Average
1994-2014
Bud break March, 28th March, 28th April, 1st April, 2nd
Flowering May, 29th May, 30th May, 31st June, 1st
Véraison August, 2nd August, 2nd August, 8th August, 8th
Beginning of the Harvest September, 14th September, 19th September, 22nd September, 27th
End of the Harvest September, 21st September, 27th September, 28th October, 5th
Number of days between...
Bud break and Flowering 63 days 63 days 61 days 60 days
Flowering and Véraison 66 days 64 days 70 days 68 days
Véraison and Harvest 44 days 48 days 46 days 50 days

 

The grapes were in remarkably good condition despite the rain during the harvest. In fact, the Merlot looked in better shape than any vintage since 1989. Cabernet Franc grapes were also fine, but the ones picked at the tail end of the harvest were not totally satisfactory, so careful sorting was necessary.

 

FEATURES OF THE VINTAGE

RIPENING AND YIELDS

Despite a fairly wet summer, the potential was very good.  The concentration of phenolic compounds was high, especially in light of the astonishingly light weight of the berries when one considers the minimal water stress during summer. The balance between sugar and acidity in Merlot was very interesting. Some of the Cabernet Franc was not entirely ripe, with relatively low sugar levels, but showed no trace of herbaceousness.
Yields were largely above average.

1999 yields    (hl/ha) Average from 1996 to 2014
Merlot 53.0 38.9
Cabernet franc 51.4 34.2

 

CELLAR WORK

Including 10% press wine, with 8% of the wine bled off fermentation vats, 1999 Cheval Blanc was aged in 100% new oak barrels. 

 

BLENDING

1999 shows a beautiful synergy between concentrated, but slightly austere Merlot and elegant, very aromatic Cabernet Franc. The final blend consists of 61% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon.

> Zoom plots

 

 

Degree of alcohol 13
Total acidity (g H2 S04/L) 3.4
Volatile acidity (g H2 SO4/L) 0.58
pH 3.46
Total SO2 (mg/L) 100
Reducing sugar content (g/L) 1.1
IPT (DO280) -

 

1999 Cheval Blanc is a charming, delicious wine that is fully mature

 

TASTING NOTES

This was a warm year, but one without any drought periods. Yields were relatively high and there was a great synergy between Merlot and Cabernet Franc that ended up producing an extremely pleasurable wine.

The deep intense colour shows bricking in keeping with its age.

The nose is concentrated with very ripe black fruit and crème de cassis aromas, as well as hints of chocolate, orange, violet, and liquorice. The oak is well-integrated with empyreumatic nuances of toasted almonds. Perfectly defined tertiary aromas have appeared over time: truffle, forest floor, and fruit in brandy. 1999 Cheval Blanc has remained very fresh.

It starts out very flavoursome and velvety on the palate, with plenty of fruit and a hint of cedar. This smooth, silky Cheval Blanc has great length, although without the concentration of great vintages.

This vintage has opened up quickly and is already proving to be charming and delicious. It provides a great deal of pleasure and has reached its peak. 1999 Cheval Blanc epitomises the synergy between concentrated, but well-balanced Merlot, and elegant, aromatic Cabernet Franc.