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.
Good full red. Profound, multidimensional nose combines redcurrant, plums, raspberry, cherry, mocha and humus: really quite singular. Wonderful sweetness and depth of flavour; lush but with a firm spine. Already offers compelling inner-mouth perfume, but I suspect this wine will soon close down. Finishes with terrific length and very suave, sweet tannins that coat the teeth. 93 points, International Wine Cellar (5/1998).
Medium ruby-garnet edge. Intense aromas of plums, cherries and dark chocolate. Full-bodied and very tight, with supersilky tannins and a long finish. Solid core of fruit. Still holding back. 93 points, James Molesworth (2007).
A pretty, attractive Cheval Blanc, the 1995 contains a higher percentage of Merlot in the final blend than usual (50% Merlot/50% Cabernet Franc). This wine has not developed as much fat or weight as its younger sibling, the 1996, but it appears to be an outstanding Cheval Blanc with an enthralling smoky, blackcurrant, coffee, and exotic bouquet. Complex, rich, medium to full-bodied flavours are well-endowed and pure, with surprisingly firm tannin in the finish. Unlike the sweeter, riper 1996, the 1995 may be more structured and potentially longer-lived. 92 points, Wine Advocate (2/1998).
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.