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.
96-98+/100 Robert Parker Jr.
2010 Cheval Blanc: The 2010 Cheval Blanc contains 13.8% alcohol, which is very high for this estate, and has an unusually high percentage of Cabernet Franc in the final blend (56% versus 44% Merlot). Yields were tiny, adding to the richness and intensity already instilled by the drought of summer and resulting tiny berries. In the style of some of the great Cheval Blancs of the late 1940s, this wine is rich, opulent, full-bodied, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, as saturated purple in color as any Cheval Blanc I have seen. Mulberries, black currants, fresh minerals, and floral notes jump from the glass of this full-bodied, dense wine. With its tannins, good acidity and surprisingly modest pH, this should be an exceptionally long-lived wine, more backward and delineated than the fatter, more opulent 2009. Drink it over the next 30+ years. Drink 2011-2041.
Wine Advocate (Neal Martin) 95-97/100 A blend of 60% Cabernet Franc and 40% Merlot, the latter suffering a little coulure (so bunches were cut earlier during the season after veraison to increase homogeneity.) The Merlot were reaching around 14.5% alcohol and the clay/gravel soils inhibited the increased alcohol level at the end. The harvest began on 15th September and finished on 13th October with a major part of the vineyard picked on 7th October. Like many samples, the Cheval Blanc takes a long time to open but eventually reveals a very refined, tightly-knit bouquet with dark berries, espresso, underbrush, the Cabernet Franc dominating the Merlot at present. The palate is medium-bodied and much more masculine compared to the fleshier 2009 last year, like the nose, the Cabernet Franc defining the wine with touches of dried herbs, a little allspice and white pepper. There is a firm backbone to this Cheval Blanc, quite structured towards the spicy finish, fresh but obdurate and broody. This will need a decade to really open up. Very promising, but do not expect fireworks...yet. Drink 2020-2040+ Tasted March 2011.
James Suckling (James Suckling) 99-100/100 The blueberry and blackberry character and bouquet of violets is off the charts. Full body, the Cabernet Franc dominates the blend now, with so much dark fruits, minerals and flowers with hints of spices. It is a very powerful and linear CB and shows amazing length and purity. Zen-like focus.
Decanter Magazine (James Lawther MW) 20/20 Sublime wine. Fresh, floral, perfumed. More elegant and sensual than the '09. Pure, sumptuous fruit. Refined texture and tannins. Lovely acidity for balance. Seamless. Drink 2020-2050. (20 points)
Wine Spectator (James Molesworth) 95-98/100 Lush and very rounded, with lots of muscle and heft, but also great polish and pose to the gorgeous boysenberry, plum and fig notes. Supercreamy on the finish, with bittersweet cocoa, violet, mint, anise and tobacco in reserve. Tasted non-blind. —J.M.
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.