2012 Domaine de Chevalier will be seen as a historic year for the estate and its owner, Olivier Bernard. In part, the owner, Olivier Bernard was elected to the important position of President of the UGC, The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux. Olivier Bernard was already busy with having to manage one of the top Pessac Leognan chateau, as well as being in charge of his families’ holding company, Financiere Bernard, which owns the successful negociant company Millesima and Sobovi along with Wine and Company. Olivier Bernard succeeded Sylvie Cazes, thre previous president, who unexpectedly resigned in November 2012.
We were able to speak with always charming and erudite Olivier Bernard about the 2012 Domaine de Chevalier vintage and harvest.
Jeff Leve When did you start to bring in your fruit for 2012 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc?
Olivier Bernard “We started the white wine harvest September 12 with the Sauvignon Blanc. The final Sauvignon Blanc was brought in September 20. The Semillon was harvested from September 20, through September 24.”
Jeff Leve From a technical viewpoint, what are your technical analysis showing for Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon?
Olivier Bernard “For the Sauvignon Blanc, the potential average alcohol levels are quite good. We are at an average of 14.1% with the pH coming in at 3.2.”
Jeff Leve: What about for the Semillon?
Olivier Bernard “We are quite pleased with our Semillon. It shows 13% alcohol.”
Jeff Leve I know it’s early, as the fruit is just starting its vinification, but does the Domaine de Chevalier 2012 white wine remind of any previous Bordeaux vintage?
Olivier Bernard “It looks like a combination of 2000 and 2009, based on the weather conditions and balance for Pessac Leognan.”
Jeff Leve: What do you like about the fruit that you have been bringing in?
Olivier Bernard “We achieved great power and freshness. The fruit is clean, pure and offers fantastic ripeness with balance, due to very good acidities. This will help bring a nice tension to the wine. It’s all you need to make a top white wine!”
Jeff Leve What about for the red wine?
Olivier Bernard “Malolactic fermentation is taking place right now. Some of the lots are finished. The red 2012 Domaine de Chevalier seems full bodied and displays ripe flavors. The level of quality is much better than we expected. We are very happy.”
Jeff Leve What caused you the most problems with the 2012 Domaine de Chevalier growing season?
Olivier Bernard “For the red 2012 Domaine de Chevalier, it was the lateness of the picking dates. We had to take great risks with the forecast to pick grapes with ripe skins. The sugar and acidity were perfect, but as you know, the skins were late.”
Jeff Leve How much sorting was required this year with the 2012 Domaine de Chevalier?
Olivier Bernard “It was much easier than in 2011. This is mainly due to the fact that we did not suffer from rot in our great terroir. We worked the soils and were very well prepared as we made sure we obtained a low nitrogen level.”
Jeff Leve What special vineyard techniques do you need to do when the flowering is uneven, as it was this year?
Olivier Bernard “We green harvested in July and again in August.”
Jeff Leve When did you start harvesting the 2012 Domaine de Chevalier Rouge?
Olivier Bernard “We began picking Merlot October 8 and finished picking the Cabernet Sauvignon, October 18.”
Jeff Leve Isn’t that late for you?
Olivier Bernard “Yes. Historically, 2012 Domaine de Chevalier is a very late vintage for us. In fact this is the latest harvest start for the Merlot in the history of the chateau!”
Jeff Leve What were the conditions like for you during the 2012 Domaine de Chevalier harvest?
Olivier Bernard “We were lucky! We did not pick one basket with rain. But it took longer than anticipated as we did not harvest every day.”
Jeff Leve How many pickers did you employ?
Olivier Bernard “It took about 100 harvesters.”
Jeff Leve Do you use optical sorting?
Olivier Bernard “No, we prefer to sort by hand.”
Jeff Leve What are your yields with the 2012 Domaine de Chevaler?
Olivier Bernard “It was low, but not so bad.”
Jeff Leve What do you anticipate the blend will be for the 2012 Domaine de Chevalier rouge?
Jeff Leve What are your alcohol levels for the white and red wines with your 2012 Bordeaux wines?
Olivier Bernard “For the white wine, the Sauvignon Blanc is about 14.3% alcohol with a pH of 3.2 .The Semillon is about 13% with a pH of 3.4. For the red wine, we are at close to 13.5%.”