Pierre-Olivier Clouet

2004 Vintage by Pierre-Olivier Clouet, Technical Director from Château Cheval Blanc

2004 was a year with temperatures and water stress usual for Bordeaux.
The wine is very classic, with excellent freshness, aromatic precision, and silky tannin​.

WEATHER CONDITIONS AND VINE’S GROWING CYCLE

TEMPERATURES AND RAINFALL

Temperatures were close to average at the start of the growing season. June was hot and dry, as was the first part of August despite a rainy period from the 8th to the 20th of that month. Early September was very warm, but cool weather set in on the 10th. The entire month was very dry.  
After the heatwave of 2003, 2004 was a much more classic vintage.

WATER BALANCE

The drought conditions in June created a water deficit that stopped vegetative growth earlier than usual, especially in plots with gravelly soil. This was beneficial to quality.

GROWING SEASON

On the whole, vine growth was regular and balanced in 2004, only slightly behind seasonal averages. Bud break took place the first week in April.  This slight time lag continued until flowering, which nevertheless took place quickly and evenly from the 6th to the 8th of June, with some disparity between Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Mid-flowering was also slightly delayed. This occurred on the 6th of August for Merlot and the 13th of that month for Cabernet Franc. So, the growing season practically made up for any delay by harvest time, which started on the 22nd of September and finished on the 5th of October.

Phenological stage Merlot
2004
Average 1994-2014 Cabernet franc
 2004
Average
1994-2014
Bud break April, 3rd March, 28th April, 8th April, 2nd
Flowering June, 6th May, 30th June, 8th June, 1st
Véraison August, 6th August, 2nd August, 13th August, 8th
Beginning of the Harvest September, 22nd September, 219th September, 29th September, 27th
End of the Harvest September, 28th September, 27th October, 5th October, 5th
Number of days between...
Bud break and Flowering 65 days 63 days 62 days 60 days
Flowering and Véraison 62 days 64 days 67 days 68 days
Véraison and Harvest 47 days 48 days 47 days 50 days

 

While there was not much danger from mildew or oidium, there was more grey rot than the 1999-2009 ten-year average (1.1% for Merlot and 0.7% for Cabernet Franc). This is due to the combined effects of several rainy periods in August and potentially high yield that was nevertheless reduced by two rounds of bunch thinning.

 

FEATURES OF THE VINTAGE

RIPENING AND YIELDS

The fine weather during flowering was propitious to even, homogeneous ripening and a large crop.  It was also conducive to large bunches.  The size of the potential crop was quite large. Methodical cluster thinning was thus necessary to limit yields and pave the way for a successful vintage. To avoid compensation mechanisms by the vines, this bunch thinning was in fact done twice, once in July and again during véraison.
The berries were heavier than average despite the rather restricted water supply, which also explains the excellent fertilization during flowering. This also accounts for the number of seeds per berry, a source of growth hormones.
Reducing yields made it possible to produce very good wine in 2004. Early water stress helped to stop vine growth and enhance concentration. However, this water stress was not extreme thanks to a several showers in August. The weather during the harvest was excellent. This vintage was especially good for Cabernet Franc, which makes up 53% of the grand vin.

2004 yields   (hl/ha) Average from 1996 to 2014
Merlot 57.9 38.9
Cabernet Franc 51.4 34.2

 

CELLAR WORK

Maceration varied from 13-23 days. The blend contained 6% of press wine, and 10.2% of the wine was bled off from fermentation vats due to the large size of the grapes.  Ageing took place in 100% new oak barrels for 16 to 17 months.

 

BLENDING

> Zoom plots

 

Date of bottling : April 11th, 2006.

Degree of alcohol 13.5
Total acidity (g H2 S04/L) 3.5
Volatile acidity (g H2 SO4/L) 0.52
pH 3.65
Total SO2 (mg/L) 77
Reducing sugar content (g/L) 1.4
IPT (DO280) 64

 

A tremendously classic wine, 2004 perfectly illustrates the synergy between Cabernet Franc and Merlot at Cheval Blanc

 

TASTING NOTES

After the atypical 2003 vintage, the weather in 2004 was much more typical of the Bordeaux climate, with close-to-average temperatures and precipitation. 2004 Cheval Blanc is a classic wine that epitomises the successful marriage of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. It is fresh, well-focused, and has lovely fine-grained tannin.

The colour is dark, intense, and starting to show its age.

The nose opens up with aeration to reveal hints of black fruit and blueberry, framed by well-integrated oak.

The wine starts out quite smooth and round on the palate with rich, dense tannin. 2004 Cheval Blanc is powerful and classy, with great aromatic freshness and a bouquet that is both fruity and floral. The beautiful long aftertaste features hints of cashew.

This fine wine is the successful marriage between the estate's two main grape varieties. it is fairly representative of a vintage with normal weather conditions in Saint Emilion. It features fine structure and beautiful balance that will enable it to age for several decades.