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Investors switch on to Cheval Blanc 2011

Investors’ interest in the hitherto relatively unheralded 2011 vintage of Cheval Blanc has been boosted by a tip-off from the estate’s technical director, Pierre-Olivier Clouet.

Cheval Blanc’s 2011 vintage was the first for which it used separate fermentation vats for each of its 45 plots

Vin-X, the prominent wine investment company, managed to snap up 30 cases from Bordeaux in early October, with availability very limited in the UK. Clouet pinpointed two key factors in the quality of the wine.

First, 2011 had an unusually warm and dry growing season. The average daily temperature between 1 April (budbreak having taken place the week before) and the end of September, by which time harvesting had been completed, was 19°C. Of the previous 15 years, only 2003 and 2006 had been warmer, and none had been drier.

Water stress “appeared early and stayed regular”, Clouet said, leading to very small berries. Balance was helped by a pH of 3.77 (lower than the 3.88 of 2010). Phenolic compounds, such as anthocyanins and tannins, were also higher in 2011 than for the average of the period 2004-11, while the dry spring restricted the amount of nitrogen the vines could transport to the grapes, thereby adding to their concentration.

Second, for the first time at the winery, each of the 45 plots had its own fermentation vat (after 52 new ones in varying sizes were built by Christian de Portzamparc).

“This brilliant 2011 vintage will long be remembered by our team and I think will be a great wine,” Clouet said. “The balance and purity augur well for ageing.”

Parker, who awarded it 95 points, described it as “a super, complex evolved Cheval Blanc with a sumptuous mid-palate that is atypical for the vintage”.

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