Pierre-Olivier Clouet

2001 Vintage by Pierre-Olivier Clouet, Technical Director from Château Cheval Blanc

2001 was a rather dry, but not excessively warm year.   The wine is complete, fresh, complex, and fruity, with a beautiful tannic texture.

WEATHER CONDITIONS AND VINE’S GROWING CYCLE

TEMPERATURES AND RAINFALL

The first four months of the year were wet and mild, except for a rather dry February.  Both rainfall and temperatures from April to September were close to seasonal averages. While there were 125 mm of showers in July, rainfall in August and September was relatively low. August was hot (1.6°C above average) and September rather cool (2.2°C below average). 
Except for two rainy days, the weather was good during the harvest.

WATER BALANCE

May and June were dry. The heavy showers in early July interrupted the beginning of water stress. However, August and September were dry. This meant that water supply during ripening was limited, an important factor in quality.

GROWING SEASON

Flowering was delayed after an early bud break, taking place three days after the usual date.  Mid-véraison (colour change) was observed on the 11th of August for Merlot and the 14th of that month for Cabernet Franc. This was also later than usual. The harvest lasted from the 24th of September to the 9th of October, which was also later than the 10-year average. A gap between phenological maturity and physiological maturity was the inevitable result of the cool temperatures in 2001.

Phenological stage Merlot
2001
Average 1994-2014 Cabernet franc
2001
Average
1994-2014
Bud break March, 23rd March, 28th March, 27th April, 2nd
Flowering June, 2nd May, 30th June, 4th June, 1st
Véraison August, 11th August, 2nd August, 14th August, 8th
Beginning of the Harvest September, 24th September, 19th October, 2nd September, 27th
End of the Harvest October, 2nd September, 27th October, 8th October, 5th
Number of days between...
Bud break and Flowering 72 days 63 days 70 days 60 days
Flowering and Véraison 71 days 64 days 72 days 68 days
Véraison and Harvest 44 days 48 days 49 days 50 days

 

The grapes were in excellent condition at harvest time. There was virtually no grey rot in Merlot and just 0.1 % in Cabernet Franc, which is exceptional. The dry months of August and September combined with meticulous green pruning undoubtedly account for this result.

 

FEATURES OF THE VINTAGE

RIPENING AND YIELDS

The grapes had a very good balance between sugar and acid. The Merlot grapes were quite small.  Average yields were 33 hectolitres per hectare for Cabernet Franc and 40 for Merlot.
A major effort was made with green pruning in 2001: suckering, bud pruning, leaf thinning, and green harvesting.  These operations contributed to similar yields from one plot to another and an even distribution of bunches. They also helped to create a sort of sunny microclimate underneath the leaf canopy and promote ripeness of the bunches despite fairly strong vegetative growth in July and early August. 

2001 is a very good year. Rigorous sorting accounted for the best possible grand vin. Only 55% of the crop went into 2001 Cheval Blanc. 

2001 yields    (hl/ha) Average from 1996 to 2014
Merlot 39.7 38.9
Cabernet Franc 32.5 34.2

 

CELLAR WORK

2001 Cheval Blanc contains 1% press wine and was not chaptalised. Six percent of the wine was bled off fermentation vats. It was aged in 100% new oak barrels.  

 

BLENDING    

> Zoom plots

 

Date of bottling : April 17th,  2003.

Degree of alcohol 13.5
Total acidity (g H2 S04/L) 3.25
Volatile acidity (g H2 SO4/L) 0.58
pH 3.66
Total SO2 (mg/L) 91
Reducing sugar content (g/L) 2.2
IPT (DO280) 72

 

Overshadowed by 2000, 2001 Cheval Blanc is one of the favourite vintages of the château winemaking team

 

TASTING NOTES

Featuring fine balance and a beautiful tannic texture, the 2001 vintage associates qualities that are particularly appreciated by the château winemaking team: freshness, unctuousness, exuberant and satisfying fruitiness, and elegant complexity.

The intense dark red colour is starting to show some signs of age.

Although red fruit aromas prevail, the very intense bouquet also shows blackberry, blackcurrant, tobacco, and violet notes, as well as subtle hints of oak.

The wine starts out quite vinous on the palate, going on to show fine balance and structure with plenty of body. The middle palate is bursting with fruit. Black fruit, truffle, and violet flavours accompany the rich, silky, texture. The wine is remarkably balanced and the oak is very well-integrated. Furthermore, the aftertaste is quite long and superbly fresh.

The perfect balance and fine tannic grain of this vintage should enable it to go on improving for several decades.