Robert Parker 88
Tasted at the chateau, the 1996 Cheval Blanc was a majority of Cabernet Franc although the exact blend is not known. Firstly, the color is a healthy garnet with a mahogany rim. The bouquet has good intensity although it is certainly not a complex set of aromas: dusky black fruit, game, clove and a faint touch of hickory. The palate is quite sharp on the entry with noticeable acidity. My main criticism is a lack of cohesion and a lack of Merlot to bind everything together and lend fleshiness. It seems to be rather monochromatic, a Cheval Blanc with a single note, the finish conservative with a touch of black pepper and cooked meat, but a little frayed around the edges. I would drink bottles now and maybe larger formats would yield more pleasure. The bottom line is this is not one of the great Cheval Blancs and that is reflected in my score. Tasted July 2016.
Anticipated maturity: 2016-2026
(a blend of 56% cabernet franc and 44% merlot; 40 h/h): Bright red. Fresh floral, white pepper, raspberry and strawberry aromas on the captivating nose, lifted by minerals and Oriental spices. Very fresh, balanced and pure on the palate, with bright red berry, floral and delicately smoky plum flavors. Very cabernet franc, and very Cheval Blanc! The lively, harmonious acids keep this wine light on its feet and really extend the flavors on the back half. The long finish features a subtly spicy kick and smooth tannins. A touch more density and it would have scored even higher. The harvest took place between September 28 and October 4.
Very classic vintage, with 55-60% Cabernet Franc – a Cabernet Franc year. 1996 is a left bank year whereas 1995 was a right bank year.Mid crimson with minimal ageing at the rim. Looks quite thick and rich to judge from the viscosity. Much more obviously Cheval on the nose than the 1999. Intense and lovely fragrance and good potential for development. Very successful bridge between ancient and modern styles. This looked exceptionally good on the day. This was the surprise of this tasting – the best bottle to date.
Anticipated maturity: 2008-2022