Domaine de Chevalier Rouge
Classification: Grand Cru (Graves Classification 1959)
Domaine de Chevalier is one of the top flight Pessac Léognan properties and lies off the beaten track amongst the pine forests. It is ranked among the Premiers Crus for its red and white wine in the Classification of Graves wine of 1953 and 1959. Domaine de Chevalier lies in the commune of Léognan, about 17 km south of the city of Bordeaux and is one of a very few Bordeaux estates to be named Domaine instead of Château (Domaine is more commonly used in Burgundy).
Domaine de Chevalier's origins can be traced back to 1763 to a map drawn up of the region by Pierre de Belleyme. The land was owned by a gentleman called Chibaley or Chivaley (meaning Knight in the Gascon language) and he produced up to 15 tonneaux (1 tonneau is 900 litres) of wine per annum. The name “Chivaley” is believed to be linked to the old pilgrim trail to Santiago de Compostela which still borders the estate. The term Domaine originally referred to an ensemble, as at Chivaley, formed by a family residence or agricultural estate in which viticulture co-existed with other crops and breeding. One of the things that makes Chevalier unique is how it achieved fame in a relatively short time compared to the majority of Bordeaux great growths, which took several centuries to acquire a similar status.
Only three men have managed Domaine de Chevalier from the time it was acquired by Arnaud and Jean Ricard in 1852 (who were successful barrel makers from Léognan and also owned Chateaux Haut Bailly and Malartic Lagravière). Jean Ricard is credited with being the creator of de Chevalier as we know it and Claude Ricard established its reputation internationally. In 1983 de Chevalier passed to their relatives the Bernard family, who until then had specialized in the sale of grape brandy and Bordeaux great growths. It is owned and managed today by Olivier Bernard. Claude Ricard stayed on for many years as advisor and the vineyard was expanded and all aspects of wine growing were revisited. The estate’s appearance and image changed greatly. The philosophy of Domaine de Chevalier revolves around quality and balance and the profits have been reinvested in the property. The quest for quality is an ongoing priority.
The soil at Domaine de Chevalier is gravelly, with a depth of up to a metre in places, and also contains some dark sand, over a sandstone bedrock. This is nutritionally destitute soil, well drained, and therefore eminently suitable for the vine. Of 80 hectares there are currently 38 hectares planted up (of which 5 hectares are white varieties), the vines having an average age of 25 years. The white grape varieties planted are 30% Semillon and 70% Sauvignon Blanc; the red varieties are 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot, the balance being 2.5% Cabernet Franc and 2.5% Petit Verdot. There is careful sorting during the harvest, with the white varieties picked by hand during several passages as in the manner of Sauternes – which was introduced by Claude in the 1940s. Vinification was undertaken with advice from oenologist Denis Dubourdieu but in recent times Stéphane Derenoncourt, of La Mondotte fame, is now consultant winemaker.
The white wines of Domaine de Chevalier have complex notes of spice, passion fruit, vanilla, grapefruit and pears. They are supple with a good acid backbone and are fresh, well defined and full of character. The red wine are elegant, vibrant and rich with notes of sweet ripe plums, blackcurrants, smoke, charcoal and cranberry. They are well balanced and have firm structured tannins and should be cellared correctly.
Owner: The Bernard Family
Château Website: www.domainedechevalier.com
Oenologist: Stéphane Derenoncourt