Domaine De Chevalier is a sort of secret garden, far from the limelight. This is something of a paradox for such an excellent wine, among the greatest in Bordeaux. Located in a clearing in the middle of a forest that protects the vines from extremes of temperature, this terroir is difficult, but is so exceptional, it produces superb grapes that ripen remarkably early. Chevalier’s unique terroir is partly due to the surrounding forest. Perfectly isolated, and without any immediate neighbours, the vineyard is in a single block. It has a high quality ecosystem without risk of outside contamination. Environmental disadvantages traditionally attributed to monoculture are largely compensated by the surrounding forest, which not only affords ecological protection, but is also a source of beneficial insects. The entire estate covers a hundred hectares, 45 of which are under vine: 40 of these are devoted to producing red wine and 5 to white wine; 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot for the red wines and 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Sémillon for the white wines. At Chevalier the team pride themselves on being perfectly in tune with the meagre, complex soil and unique environment. For example, growing the vines with high density creates competition between vines resulting in low yields of grapes with thick skins and a high concentration of colour, aromas, and tannin. It also reduces the time it takes for full, even ripening, and gives the wine the complexity necessary to age well for many years. Each plot of vines, indeed, each individual vine is different, and is therefore treated differently. The way the grapes are picked illustrates the winegrowing team’s quest for perfection at Domaine de Chevalier: great care is taken during sorting. It is hard to describe the intensity of the vintage at Domaine du Chevalier, with its accompanying anxiety and numerous trips through the vineyard. When it comes to quality control, it is interesting to note that subjective taste tests take precedence over “objective” laboratory data. This is because the human factor is essential for a product that relies, above all, on craftsmanship – and enjoyment! At Chevalier, every aspect of winemaking takes place in barrels, a percentage of which are new each year. The assemblage or final blend is done on the early side, in January after the vintage. As the wine is barrel fermented, and kept in small, separate lots, it is possible to fine tune the blend, in keeping with vintage character. Barrel fermentation as practised at Chevalier is very expensive and time-consuming. The vinification process calls for the expertise of the entire management team as well as that of our consulting oenologist, Denis Dubourdieu. After regular bâtonnage, ageing takes place on the lees until the end of the first summer after the vintage. The wine then spends a second winter in barrel, after which it is naturally clarified – so much so that when it is bottled the following spring, only very slight filtration is necessary.
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