Cheval Blanc is considered the greatest wine of Saint-Émillion, and shares a worldwide reputation comparable to any Bordeaux First Growth (and therefore any wine on earth). Being Right Bank-situated, no wines from the region were included in the original 1855 classification of Bordeaux, but Saint-Émillion devised its own ranking system 100 years later - one that is considered incredibly robust and up-to-date, due to its regular re-appraisal.
Cheval Blanc has been ranked as a Premier Grand Cru Classe (A) - the highest possible - since the inception of the classification.
The property borders Pomerol on one side, often drawing commentators into describing Cheval Blanc as combining the best of the two: having the richness and opulence of Pomerol tempered by Saint-Émillion’s unique elegance and poise.
The wine is generally led by Cabernet Franc, followed by the signature Merlot of Saint-Émillion.
Spice, anis, rosemary, blackcurrant leaf, redcurrants, mint and peonies - the full array of aromatics are on display here, and there is an enveloping aspect to the fruit once you get to the body of the wine. The tannins are compact and powerful but they are wrapped in plump raspberry and blackberry brambled fruits. The wine feels full of life, with acidity that pulls the palate forward from the first moment, before austerity kicks in on the finish and closes things in, suggesting an extremely long life ahead. Hard to argue with this. 71% of overall production. The driest year at Cheval Blanc for 50 years (since 1959). Could go up after tasting in bottle, a potential 100 points. 98-100. Drinking Window 2028 - 2048
(98-100) points, Decanter (May 2021)
65% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. 71% of production. Cask sample.
Deep colour. Flattering and floral on the nose but slightly hard-edged on the palate. There’s a fleshy quality to the fruit and freshness as well but the luxurious nature of Cheval seems missing this year. Tight and firm at present, even a little pinched, the tannins overwhelm the fruit at present.
17 points, James Lawther, JancisRobinson.com (April 2021)
St.-Émilion is the star of Bordeaux’s Right Bank, north of the Dordogne River. The rich red wines produced in St.-Émilion, based on Merlot and Cabernet Franc, are less tannic and generally more fruit-driven in flavour than the Cabernet-based wines of Left Bank. Merlot thrives on the plateaus high above the Dordogne, where the soil is filled with sand and clay, a perfect medium for creating opulent, fruit-forward wines. With a typically savoury character, St.-Émilion wines are sometimes called the “Burgundies of Bordeaux.” These refined reds, with loads of finesse, are elegant companions to beef, chicken, pork and duck.
The wines of St.-Émilion were not included in the famous 1855 classification of Bordeaux, which ranked wines of the Left Bank. In 1955, St.-Émilion published its own classification, based on soil analysis, wine quality and reputation of the properties. Unlike the 1855 classification, St.-Emilion’s system requires properties to continuously prove themselves. The list is revised regularly, most recently in 2012. There are two tiers within the classification, Premier Grand Cru Classé and Grand Cru Classé. There are currently just 18 Premier Grand Cru properties and 64 Grand Cru Classé properties.
The St.-Émilion appellation is home to hundreds of individual producers, enhancing the variety of wines made there. Many of the properties remain small, family-run enterprises, unlike the large châteaux of the Left Bank. The area is also the base of France’s controversial micro-châteaux or garagiste wine movement; these innovative winemakers operate outside the traditional classification system, making very high quality (and very expensive) highly extracted wines.