Acquired in 1983 by the Bernard family, Domaine de Chevalier is part of the elite group of Grand Cru Classé. Located in the appellation of Pessac-Léognan on the Left Bank, the property produces delightful red and white wines. The estate’s wines are known for their fine, round tannins and balanced acidity. Combining power and elegance, Domaine de Chevalier produces complex wines with nice freshness and aromatic persistence.
The Vineyards of Domaine de Chevalier
Chevalier’s unique climate is partly due to the surrounding forest. The vineyards are of a single block perfectly isolated and without any immediate neighbors. The forest offers ecological protection and is also a source of beneficial insects to the vineyards. The vine density is 10,000 vines per hectare, much higher that the appellation average of 6,500 vines per hectare. This high density creates competition between vines resulting in low yields and high concentrations of color, aromas and tannin. The soils are composed of dark sand and fine white gravel, contributing to the wine’s complexity and structure necessary to age well for many years.
The philosophy of the estate has always been “great terroir demands only moderate extraction, too much extraction cannot enhance the quality of a wine.” This approach begins in the winery, the vats are small (50-100 hectoliters). Each plot is fermented separately and thus to fine tune the final blend. The stainless steel vats are wider to facilitate a gentle extraction of color and tannin, and increases contact area between the juice and the cap.
Fermentation takes place in stainless steel vats for 4-6 days. The reds are regularly pumped over and sometimes accompanied by ‘pigeage’, the traditional method of punching down the cap. This breaking up of the cap and pushing it down into the wine with a long wooden stick results in gentle extraction. Skin contact lasts for 15-25 days depending on its structure and is frequently tasted to monitor its evolution. The final blending takes place in January in order to allow the tannin to become fully integrated, particularly those from different grape varieties. Ageing occurs entirely in barrel for 14-24 months with an average 40% new oak depending on the vintage. Depending on the year, between 40% to 60% of the total production is destined for the gran vin.
At Chevalier, every parcel is fermented separately to fine tune the final blend. For the blanc, the grapes are put into a pneumatic press where they are softly and slowly pressed. The must is run off into barrels in a refrigerated room, where the lees are allowed to settle. After 24 hours, the wines are racked off into 30% new oak barrels for maturation. This barrel ageing gives Domaine de Chevalier blanc better extraction. Assemblage is performed in January to allow the elements to integrate as early as possible. Because each lot is vinified separately, the estate is able to fine tune the final blend while preserving the character of the vintage. Batonnage, (stirring with a stick) strengthens the wine’s structure and contributes richness, flavor and a silkier texture. Ageing takes place on its lees for 12 months with light filtration before bottling. Barrel fermentation as practiced at Chevalier is very time-consuming and expensive and would simply not suit a larger vineyard.