Pierre-Olivier Clouet

1996 Vintage by Pierre-Olivier Clouet, Technical Director from Château Cheval Blanc

The 1996 is strongly marked by Cabernet Franc and features good concentration as well as great aromatic complexity.  It is gaining much substance with age​.



April and May were slightly warmer than usual, with average rainfall. The weather in June started out fine, but was much cooler in the last ten days of the month. There was little rain on the whole. The first ten days of July were cool and very wet. However, this month was very hot and dry thereafter.  Temperatures were very close to average in August, but with a great deal of rain. The weather was beautiful and dry at the very end of the month, but a cool period then set in. Early September was dry and fine, with bright sunshine, however it remained relatively cool, with northerly and easterly winds. Maximum temperatures were very pleasant and close to average, but night-time ones were colder than usual. This locked in freshness and led to good, but not excessive ripening.  Uncertain weather arrived on the 25th of September, with storms lasting until the 5th of October.


In order to grow well, the vine needs for water stress to set in slowly so the grapes to ripen well and become concentrated. Water stress was very marked in 1996, despite regular and even heavy showers in August.


On the whole, it can be said that this was a late-ripening vintage since most stages of phenological maturity occurred after physiological maturity. The growth cycle slowed down after bud break, which took place on the 8th of April for both Merlot and Cabernet Franc – 11 days later than usual for Merlot and 6 days later than usual for Cabernet Franc. Flowering and véraison were also later than average. The harvest, on the other hand, was in keeping with the usual dates, starting on the 23rd of September for Merlot and finishing on the 4th of October for Cabernet Franc.

Phenological stage Merlot
Cabernet franc
Bud break April, 8th March, 28th April, 8th April, 2nd
Flowering June, 5th May, 30th June, 6th June, 1st
Véraison August, 7th August, 2nd August, 12th August, 8th
Beginning of the Harvest September, 23rd September, 19th September, 28th September, 27th
End of the Harvest September, 28th September, 27th October, 4th October, 5th
Number of days between...
Bud break and Flowering 59 days 63 days 60 days 60 days
Flowering and Véraison 64 days 64 days 68 days 68 days
Véraison and Harvest 48 days 48 days 48 days 50 days




Despite the heavy rains in August, the weight of the berries was not particularly great. In fact, Cabernet Franc grapes were more concentrated than usual. The quality of Merlot was uneven, but first-class fruit was picked on the 23rd and 24th of September. Cabernet Franc was harvested from the 28th of September to the 4th of October. Quality was excellent. The grapes had average sugar levels, but were rich in phenolic compounds. They showed fairly strong acidity, with marked malic acid.

1996 yields    (hl/ha) Average from 1996 to 2014
Merlot 42.0 38.9
Cabernet franc 41.9 34.2



Consisting of 17% press wine, 1996 Cheval Blanc was aged in 100% new oak barrels. 



> Zoom plots

Degree of alcohol 13
Total acidity (g H2 S04/L) 3.49
Volatile acidity (g H2 SO4/L) 0.72
pH 3.24
Total SO2 (mg/L) 108
Reducing sugar content (g/L) 1.0
IPT (DO280) -


Marked by Cabernet Franc, 1996 features all the strong points of this variety: complexity, length, and ageing potential...



This vintage produced superb Cabernet Franc as well as some fine lots of Merlot. In fact, Cabernet Franc makes up most of the final blend, so the wine unsurprisingly reflects that variety's characteristics to a great extent.

The deep, brilliant, ruby-red colour has a brownish-red rim showing the wine's age.

Although the bouquet seems rather closed at first, it opens up when swirled in the glass to reveal complex aromas of blackcurrant, fruit in brandy, vanilla, and understated oak. The nose gains in complexity and intensity over time, but the fruit always prevails.

The wine starts out powerful, vinous, and elegant on the palate. This vintage has a great deal of freshness and is rich and dense on the middle palate. The tannin is luscious, but fine-grained. The fruity flavours go into quite a long aftertaste that remains fresh.

1996 Cheval Blanc shows good concentration and fine aromatic complexity that has developed well over time. The wine has been delightful for the past several years and is now starting to show its age, although it still appears to have further potential.