Domaine de Chevalier 2012
• Domaine: Domaine de Chevalier
• Appellation: Pessac-Léognan
• Classification: Grand Cru Classé de Graves
• Origin: Left Bank, Bordeaux, France
• Importer: Laguna Cellar
The philosophy at Domaine de Chevalier is that 90 percent of the work is done in the vineyards and the remaining ten percent is done in the vat room. This Grand Cru Classé estate in the Pessac-Léognan carveout of the Graves appellation is surrounded by forests, which protect the precious vines from extreme weather. Many refer to Domaine de Chevalier as a, “secret garden,” hidden in the middle of this heavily wooded area in Graves and if you were fortunate enough to visit the estate, it may be hard to find amongst the trees. Though Domaine de Chevalier may not be as well-known of a property as some of the Classified Growths in the Médoc, that does not mean it shouldn’t be on any discerning wine buyer’s radar. The wines of Domaine de Chevalier are consistently of impeccable quality, making it a property that very much deserves recognition on a wider scale.
Domaine de Chevalier is presently run by Olivier Bernard, a man with a long family legacy entrenched in the Bordeaux wine trade. Olivier Bernard’s family was initially in the brandy business prior to switching over to winemaking. He was asked to run Domaine de Chevalier at the tender age of 23 years old -- and almost considered not taking the opportunity. His family trusted him, believing winemaking was in his blood. Eventually, Olivier rose to the challenge – much to the benefit of the estate. Since he took over operations in the 1980s, he kept the winemaking team on board but implemented a lot of changes to the property. When Olivier acquired the Domaine de Chevalier, it was only a 18-hectare estate. Olivier expanded it to the 65 planted hectares it is today. He initiated a long-term replanting process in 1988 that finished in 1995. Today, the property is sustainably farmed, and 30 hectares are farmed using biodynamic viticultural practices.
Frosts in the area can be problematic for the vineyard, and Olivier often uses wind machines and sometimes helicopters to protect the plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon from extreme weather. Picking is often done in the vineyard, and for their white wine, Domaine de Chevalier Blanc, the grapes are then taken to a special room that is kept very cold to preserve freshness of the delicate white varietals. The only other property that implements this practice in Bordeaux for their white wine is Château Margaux.
The philosophy of Domaine de Chevalier is about serving the needs of the fruit in the vat room. The resulting wines are fresh, ethereal and sophisticated, with the potential to age for several years. Olivier Bernard believes that as vignerons, they have 12 months to create one vintage. In his mind, the winemaking process is a series of steps leading to the critical period that is harvest time. If they do everything right, one vintage may be remembered for 30 years or more. In the case of Domaine de Chevalier it seems this philosophy serves them well, considering some of their top vintages are some of the most memorable wines from Graves.
"Very floral and elegant with raspberry and blackcurrant fruit mixed with toasty oak/vanillin, followed by a medium to full-bodied, stylish, polished wine that is the quintessentially refined style of Pessac-Léognan. Nevertheless, the complexity and nuance has yet to fully emerge. This medium to full-bodied Domaine de Chevalier is poised for a bright future. It is tight and backward now, as well as restrained aromatically, but everything is there for the future. Forget it for 5-7 years and drink it over the following 30 years." - Robert Parker Jr., The Wine Advocate (4/29/2015, Issue 218), Ratings: 92+
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