2011 Cheval Blanc Tasting Notes, Pierre Olivier Clouet Interview


2011 Cheval Blanc – From 52% Cabernet Franc and 48% Merlot, the wine will be aged in 100% new oak. The wine reached 13% alcohol and represents 65% of the harvest. This is a fresh, refined, elegant style of Cheval Blanc that offers soft, ripe, pure, fresh black and white cherries, floral, spice, truffle, smoke and earthy aromas along with supple textures. While refined and polished, 2011 Cheval Blanc lacks the depth of 2009 and 2010. 95-96 Pts

2011 Le Petit Cheval – With a large portion of Merlot at 75% and 25% Cabernet Franc, the wine opens to truffle, caramel and black cherry.  Medium-bodied, with some dryness in the finish, the wine ends with black raspberry sensations. 88-89 Pts

Jeff Leve What was the key for you in making 2011 Cheval Blanc?

Pierre Olivier Clouet “It was to wait to harvest the Cabernet Franc so we could gain the maximum level of ripeness to allow us to produce the best 2011 Cheval Blanc possible.”

Jeff Leve How did you approach harvesting your Merlot to produce the 2011 Cheval Blanc?

Pierre Olivier Clouet “The goal is to pick the Merlot when it is al dente. The fruit is best when it is almost ripe.”

Jeff Leve Why do you prefer to pick Merlot when it’s as you say, al dente, and not fully ripe?

Pierre Olivier Clouet “When the Merlot grape is too ripe, it delivers flavors we are not looking for in Cheval Blanc wine.  In the 2011 Bordeaux vintage, the Cabernet Franc was harvested later, after the Merlot. The fruit obtained better development due to the warm days and cool nights. This allowed the aromatics to obtain fruit and floral characteristics.”

Jeff Leve In this difficult and dry vintage, how did your manage your vineyards to produce the 2011 Cheval Blanc?

Pierre Olivier Clouet “In the sandy terroir of Cheval Blanc, some of the berries did not ripen as we would have liked. That fruit was not used in the final blend.  But the fruit grown in clay soils of Cheval Blanc obtained good ripeness.  Clay is exceptional in every type of vintage.”

Jeff Leve How was it for you to work the first vintage in your new cellars?

Pierre Olivier Clouet  “It was perfect. We have 44 different plots in the vineyards. In the cellars, we now have 52 vats ranging in size from 20 hectoliters to 110 hectoliters. We were truly able to harvest on a parcel-by-parcel basis. With all the different-sized vats, we could control the vinification on a parcel-by-parcel basis”.

Jeff Leve After fermentation, what other choices did you make in the cellars for the production of the 2011 Cheval Blanc?

Pierre Olivier Clouet “At the end of alcoholic fermentation, we continued to macerate the grapes at low temperatures ranging from 29-30 Celsius. We did no pumping over for the following 10-14 days, depending on the vats. This leads to more supple characteristics in the wine.”

Jeff Leve Do you feel there is any difference in aromatic complexity in the wines being made in the new cellars?

Pierre Olivier Clouet “No.  There is no difference. We perform extensive sanitation in the cement vats and they are perfectly clean.”

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