Pierre-Olivier Clouet

2012 Vintage by Pierre-Olivier Clouet, Technical Director from Château Cheval Blanc

2012 was dry and rather warm with a superb Indian summer. 2012 Château Cheval Blanc is a truly beautiful wine already showing astonishing complexity and great aromatic precision.

WEATHER CONDITIONS AND VINE’S GROWING CYCLE

TEMPERATURES AND RAINFALL

The month of April was cool and very wet. May and June were more mild, but it continued to rain until the 15th of July.  Thereafter, a long period of beautiful, very dry weather set in.  Just 30 mm of rain fell between the 15th of July and the 20th of September - as compared to an average of 120 mm. There were a few showers in late September, but the month was, on the whole, quite dry (48 mm, as against 81 mm in a normal year). The weather was mild in early October, with some rain, but cumulative precipitation was still low for the first half of the month. The overall growing season in 2012 was very similar to 2000: the first half was rainy and the latter half very dry. Furthermore, temperature patterns for both vintages are astonishingly similar. The average temperature during the vegetative cycle in 2012 was 18.5°C, i.e. 0.6°C above average.

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. The water regime showed a contrast between a very wet spring and early summer without any water stress and a dry end to the season with marked water stress.  The water deficit was great up until the 30th of September, and 2012 is the sixth driest vintage in the past 60 years, between 1989 and 1990 (a little more dry), and 2000 and 2003 (slightly less dry). Even if there were several short rainy spells during the harvest, cumulative precipitation was still very low for this period (19 mm).

GROWING SEASON

Bud break took place slightly later than usual, on the 30th of March for Merlot and the 5th of April for Cabernet Franc. Shoot development was very uneven in April due to poor weather.  
Conditions were fine at the outset of flowering in late May, although there were showers on the 2nd of June.  For this reason, flowering ended up being somewhat uneven and spread out. Mid-flowering occurred on the 1st of June for Merlot and one day later for Cabernet Franc. Vine growth was slow in June and July. Véraison (colour change) took place several days later than usual (the 5th of August for Merlot and the 11th of August for Cabernet Franc). The beautiful weather in August and September were ideal for ripening. The harvest began on the 27th of September for Merlot and the 6th of October for Cabernet Franc. It lasted until the 13th of October. 2012 was thus a fairly late-ripening year.

Phenological stage  Merlot
2012
Average 1994-2014 Cabernet franc
2012
Average
1994-2014
Bud break  March, 30th March, 28th April, 5th April, 2nd
Flowering June, 1st May, 30th June, 2nd June, 1st
Véraison August, 5th August, 2nd August, 11th August, 8th
Beginning of the Harvest September, 27th September, 19th October, 6th September, 27th
End of the Harvest October, 8th September, 27th October, 13th October, 5th
Number of days between...
Bud break and Flowering 63 days 63 days 58 days 60 days
Flowering and Véraison 65 days 64 days 70 days 68 days
Véraison and Harvest 53 days 48 days 56 days 50 days

 

FEATURES OF THE VINTAGE

RIPENING AND YIELDS

The beginning of the growing season was difficult due to uneven bud break and flowering, as well as a strong attack of mildew.  However, any worries were dissipated by the return of beautiful weather starting in mid-July. Vegetative growth came to a halt in early August in most plots, creating good conditions for ripening. The light showers in late September and early October did not endanger to crop's excellent potential, which remained fine until the end of the harvest.   
The berries were close to normal in weight and yields were slightly less than average.  The grapes had a balanced constitution with good sugar levels, but not to excess, as well as a high phenolic compound content.  Both Cabernet Franc and Merlot were very successful.
2012 is unquestionably a very good vintage at Cheval Blanc.

2012 yields   (hl/ha) Average from 1996 to 2014
Merlot 32.3 38.9
Cabernet Franc 32.8 34.2

 

CELLAR WORK

The wine underwent no saignée (bleeding from fermentation vats), and was not chaptalised.  It contains no press wine and was entirely aged in new oak barrels for 18 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 : June 3rd, 2014.

Degree of alcohol 13.5
Total acidity (g H2 S04/L) 3.10
Volatile acidity (g H2 SO4/L) 0.36
pH 3.67
Total SO2 (mg/L) 110
Reducing sugar content (g/L) 1.7
IPT (DO280) 63

 

TASTING NOTES

This vintage is already complex, and features an impressive range of aromas and flavours from the very first.

The colour is a deep crimson with mauve highlights. 
The nose exhibits great aromatic purity and astonishing complexity: red fruit (raspberry, cherry), black fruit (blackcurrant jam, blueberry), and delicate floral nuances (rose and violet). Freshness (mint and eucalyptus) and minerality (graphite, chalk) round out the vivacious aromatic profile. The bouquet is quite unique: tremendously pure, and the oak is not even noticeable - the sign of a great vintage. 
2012 Cheval Blanc starts out straightforward and powerful on the palate. The middle palate is concentrated, with firm tannin that is nevertheless incomparably rich. The elegant texture is accompanied by fresh, complex flavours. The wine's incredible length is both rich and delicate. In fact, the wine seems to rise in intensity and then recede imperceptibly and seamlessly. 

2012 Cheval Blanc is polished, complex, and delicious with totally impressive length for a Saint Emilion this young