Pierre-Olivier Clouet

1988 Vintage by Pierre-Olivier Clouet, Technical Director from Château Cheval Blanc

This cool and dry year was conducive to the slow and complete ripening necessary to produce great Cheval Blanc. This outstanding wine, elegant and ethereal, possesses great freshness and balance. The range of aromas is especially complex and the wine has aged beautifully​.



The temperatures were close to average from April to the end of September, except for the cool month of July. The thermometer went over 33.5°C for three of the first ten days of September. However, it was rather cool at the end of the ripening period. The beginning of the growth cycle was wet, but a very dry spell set in starting in late June. There were just 90 mm. of precipitation from July to September.


A slight degree of water stress appeared starting in late June.  This water deficit, accentuated in July, August, and September due to limited rainfall, was unquestionably beneficial to the vines.


After a cool, wet spring, the growing season was off to a somewhat late start in 1988. Flowering took place around the 10th of June and véraison occurred on about the 20th of August.  Although there was a threat of mildew at the beginning of the growth cycle, this was completely thwarted by the return of fine weather after flowering. The weather was beautiful during the harvest, which lasted from the 1st to the 10th of October.

  Merlot Cabernet franc
  Begin End Begin End
1988 harvest dates October, 1st October, 4th October, 4th October, 10th
Average harvest dates (1986-2014) September, 19th September, 27th September, 27th October, 5th




The relatively cool, but very dry conditions during ripening were ideal for locking in rich aromas. The grapes were ripe, but not at all overripe, and displayed a great balance between sugar and acidity. Yields were fairly high: 40 hectolitres per hectare 1988 Cheval Blanc is a great Bordeaux: very classic and with great ageing potential.

1988 yield    (hl/ha) Average yield: 1946 to 2014
40.8 33.9


Degree of alcohol 12.5
Total acidity (g H2 S04/L) 3.53
Volatile acidity (g H2 SO4/L) 0.6
pH -
Total SO2 (mg/L) 136
Reducing sugar content (g/L) 1.0
IPT (DO280) -


1988 is the first vintage of the mythical 88-89-90 trilogy of remarkable classic wines. It shows rare balance and complexity, as well as great ageing potential



This is a great classic year at Cheval Blanc. The wine is complex, ethereal, balanced, and elegant. It has aged wonderfully in bottle.

The deep intense colour shows bricking in keeping with its age.

The initial impression on the nose is of considerable complexity and concentration, with nuances of menthol, truffle, and Virginia tobacco. Further aeration brings out forest floor aromas reminiscent of a walk in the woods after the rain, as well as leather, cinnamon, and clove notes. The wine's paramount qualities are elegance and finesse.

This is a concentrated, exceptionally well-balanced wine on the palate with a refreshing spiciness as well as sensations of mint, mocha, caramel, and Russian leather. The tannin is quite refined and the outstandingly long aftertaste shows black pepper and plum nuances.


The very ethereal 1988 Cheval Blanc is unquestionably a great wine. It is built to age that will please enthusiasts of classic Bordeaux enormously. Although not far from its peak, it still deserves to spend some more time in the cellar.