Pierre-Olivier Clouet

2008 Vintage by Pierre-Olivier Clouet, Technical Director from Château Cheval Blanc

This is a classic vintage showing considerable freshness and great balance. The growing season was slow, but finished up in glory thanks to an extraordinary Indian summer that accounted for impeccable grapes​.

WEATHER CONDITIONS AND VINE’S GROWING CYCLE

TEMPERATURES AND RAINFALL

Winter was mild with average rainfall. The beginning of the growth cycle was quite wet, with 173 mm of precipitation in May - some two and a half times the average amount. This rain was accompanied by very mild temperatures.  However, a period of relatively dry weather lasted from mid-June to late July. Temperatures and rainfall in August were close to the monthly average. There were a few showers in early September, followed by an unusual spell of dry, very cool conditions from mid-September to mid-October which meant the grapes could be picked under very good conditions. The amount of sunshine was normal from April to September. 2008 was a cool year (sums of temperature lower than the 1995-2009 average) with average rainfall, but with a fine Indian summer.

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.. In 2008, the soil remained at its water storage capacity until mid-June. However, a slight water deficit set in during the month of July.  This stabilised in August, before intensifying in late September.  That having been said, the water deficit was not great in 2008.

GROWING SEASON  

The growth cycle was slow, which made for gradual ripening. Thanks to an exceptional Indian summer and the good condition of the grapes, ripening could continue unabated.  Bud break took place a few days later than average. Flowering took its time in the first week of June due to inclement weather. This would go on to account for small yields. There was a fairly sizeable gap between mid-véraison in Merlot (8th of August) and Cabernet Franc (14th of August). This discrepancy continued until the harvest, which was considerably spread out. Picking began with Merlot on the 30th of September and finished with the last plots of Cabernet Franc on the 17th of October.   The harvest was interrupted on several occasions in order to pick each plot at optimum ripeness.  This was the latest vintage at Cheval Blanc since 1988. The grapes were in remarkably fine condition.

Phenological stage Merlot
2008
Average 1994-2014 Cabernet franc
2008
Average
1994-2014
Bud break March, 27th March, 28th April, 3rd April, 2nd
Flowering June, 4th May, 30th June, 6th June, 1st
Véraison August, 8th August, 2nd August, 14th August, 8th
Beginning of the Harvest September, 30th September, 19th October, 6th September, 27th
End of the Harvest October, 5th September, 27th October, 17th October, 5th
Number of days between...
Bud break and Flowering 70 days 63 days 64 days 60 days
Flowering and Véraison 65 days 64 days 69 days 68 days
Véraison and Harvest 53 days 48 days 53 days 50 days

 

The wet, warm weather in May caused a tremendous danger from mildew. Only very close observation and quick responsiveness avoided a massive deterioration of grapes at Cheval Blanc. However, there was little oidium this year.  The cool, dry weather in the month preceding the harvest stopped grey rot from spreading.

 

FEATURES OF THE VINTAGE

RIPENING AND YIELDSING

Despite the difficult conditions early in the season, weather was favourable to good ripening.  The water deficit in June was weak, but enough to slow down the development of vine shoots.  This is a major factor in channelling vigour into producing sugar in the grapes rather than vegetative growth.  Furthermore, the low degree of fertilisation during flowering limited yields to just 27 hectolitres per hectare. Despite the small potential crop, bunch thinning was done at mid-véraison to eliminate clusters that were behind and also to make ripening more homogeneous.
The combination of restricted vegetative growth starting in the latter part of July, an outstandingly fine Indian summer, and grapes in top condition led to a crop of rich fruit with rare balance and great aromatics.  The size of the berries was slightly greater than average. Sugar content was the second highest in the previous decade, just behind 2005. The cool weather maintained good acidity, and the grapes were also rich in anthocyanins. Merlot was very in good quality (rich and complex), and the Cabernets Franc was exceptional. The overall potential was quite homogeneous and there was an obvious synergy between Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

2008 yields    (hl/ha) Average from 1996 to 2014
Merlot 28.5 38.9
Cabernet Franc 26.4 34.2

 

CELLAR WORK

Maceration lasted from 23 to 31 days depending on the lot.
2008 Cheval Blanc was not at all chaptalised. Approximately 13% of the juice was bled off, and the wine was aged in 100% new oak barrels for 16-17 months.
Traditional fining with egg white was done in order to settle particles in suspension in barrel. Two egg whites per barrel were used. These were later eliminated by filtration.

 

BLENDING

> Zoom plots

Date of bottling : April 20th, 2010

Degree of alcohol 13.5
Total acidity (g H2 S04/L) 3.25
Volatile acidity (g H2 SO4/L) 0.46
pH 3.61
Total SO2 (mg/L) 105
Reducing sugar content (g/L) 2.7
IPT (DO280) 83

 

2008 Cheval Blanc is a very successful wine from a vintage that has not received the recognition it truly deserves 

 

TASTING NOTES

2008 Château Cheval Blanc is a perfectly polished vintage that is one of the finest wines of the year in Bordeaux thanks to its aromatic purity and complexity.

The lovely red colour is quite intense.

The nose exhibits tremendous aromatic purity and well-focused fruit, especially black fruit and redcurrant. The bouquet goes on to reveal overtones of spring flowers and fresh mint that give a particular cachet to this ripe, but in no way overripe vintage.

The wine starts out full-bodied and concentrated, with plenty of power and smoothness. Epitomising the balance between concentration and freshness, the long aftertaste is quite elegant, with tannin the melts beautifully in the mouth.

Although already showing considerable complexity, this vintage gives every indication of decades of life ahead.