Thursday, January 20, 2011

Domaine de Chevalier Blanc 2005

2005 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc Grand Cru Classe de Graves, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux, France $90-$130
Tucked away from tourists, on a more humble farm-like setting, Domaine de Chevalier remains a youth in comparison to its neighboring wine estates within Pessac-Leognan. Much controversy surrounds this diamond in the rough, discension stems from quality critiques. After tasting, I must confess this barrel-fermented, small production white delivers substance and finesse.

Just north of this clearing within a pine forest rests the origin and heart of Bordeaux itself. Over 700 years ago, monks tended to fledgling vineyards in what is now the clustered suburbs of Bordeaux. The city itself cloaks the renowned estates of Haut-Brion, La Mission Haut-Brion, La Tour Haut-Brion, and Laville Haut-Brion. Pope Clement of Avignon planted what is now Chateau Pape Clement in the 1300s, a commune just west of the previously mentioned Chateaux. But Chateau Haut-Brion established the fine red wine precedent for the world in the 1660s.

Unlike most grand estates of Bordeaux, Domaine de Chevalier has only had three owners since its founding in the late 1700s by Monsieur Chibaley--the Gascon meaning of knight. Unfortunately, viticulture fell into disarray due to the agricultural and livestock focus, but regained ground after 1865 upon the Ricard family takeover. Fabulous vintages mark the mid 20th century, and maybe the best are yet to come. Olivier Bernard, one of France's largest distillers, purchased the estate in 1983. Olivier Bernard, without a doubt, harbors the deepest respect for terroir and committment to balance. He preserves the tradition and style of Domaine de Chevalier, delivering wines of distinctive style and personality, a cord of identity linking the past thirty vintages.

The 2005 white consists of 85% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Semillon. Pure, aromatic nose giving way to floral background and notes of lanolin, honeycomb, beeswax. The palate continues expression of purity and floral aromatics, but gives way to creamy texture, wine with depth and soul. Pristine fruit swells mid-palate; hint of grapefruit, leaf, pear syrup and quince blossoms. Stunning acidity pierces the mouth, washes palate with refreshing rinse, tinged with orange zest. Lingering finish, smooth, balanced, persistent.

Now only, what to drink with this formidable, and most of all, unique beauty?