Pierre-Olivier Clouet

1997 Vintage by Pierre-Olivier Clouet, Technical Director from Château Cheval Blanc

1997 was a difficult vintage hampered by a certain dilution calling for careful sorting of grapes. The wine is nevertheless expressive and without herbaceous aromas. It is easy to drink and has aged fairly quickly.



Après After very cold weather the first ten days of January, with temperatures as low as -9°C, late winter and early spring were mild and dry.  May was warm and fairly wet. The showers continued into June, accompanied by unseasonably cool temperatures. The rain gradually let up in July, but started up again in August (over 100 mm). It was exceptionally hot in August, along with high humidity.   September was beautiful and warm, with very strong insolation. Only 11 mm. of rain fell all month.


In order to grow well, the vine needs for water stress to set in slowly so the grapes to ripen well and become concentrated. Due to the significant precipitation in May, June, and August, there was no significant water stress in 1997. This did, however, appear in late September, although part of the crop had already been picked by then.


Bud break was exceptionally early: on the 15th of March for Merlot and the 17th of March for Cabernet Franc. Flowering started in the first few days of May and was spread out over a long period due to the unfavourable weather. Mid-flowering was observed on the 19th of May for Merlot and the 22nd of that month for Cabernet Franc. This was three weeks ahead of the usual date.  The fact that flowering was very spread out was later reflected in uneven véraison and ripening. Mid-véraison occurred on the 23rd of July for Merlot and the 29th of July for  Cabernet Franc.
The heavy rainfall in August led to prolonged vegetative growth, consequently delaying ripening. The uneven degree of maturity called for a very long harvest (21 days at Cheval Blanc). Faithful to the château style and in order to put forward its intrinsic qualities, i.e. fresh fruit and elegant aromatics, Cheval Blanc does not seek overripe grapes.

A few patches of grey rot showed up in August because of the strong humidity. Fortunately, though, these did not spread because of the return of dry weather.

Phenological stage Merlot
Average 1994-2014 Cabernet franc
Average 1994-2014
Bud break March, 15th March, 28th March, 17th April, 2nd
Flowering May, 19th May, 30th May, 22nd June, 1st
Véraison July, 23rd August, 2nd July, 28th August, 8th
Begging of the Harvest September, 3rd September, 19th September, 15th September, 27th
End of the Harvest September, 11th September, 27th September, 23th October, 5th
Number of days between ...
Bud break and Flowering 66 days 63 days 67 days 60 days
Flowering and Véraison 66 days 64 days 68 days 68 days
Véraison and Harvest 43 days 48 days 50 days 50 days




1997 was a hot, wet year. The berries were especially weighty due to the lack of water stress during most of the growth cycle. Ripening was slow because of competition from shoots that grew right up until the beginning of the harvest. Therefore, sugar levels and the concentration of phenolic compounds were low, accompanied by higher-than-average acidity.  In fact, the grapes were more affected by a certain dilution than a lack of maturity, as proved by the absence of herbaceous aromas. 
It was therefore important in 1997 to control yields, which amounted to 38.8 hectolitres per hectare at Cheval Blanc. Sorting was severe since only 44% of the crop ended up in the grand vin.

1997 yields    (hl/ha) Average from 1996 to 2014
Merlot 38.0 38.9
Cabernet franc 37.4 34.2



Consisting of 12% press wine, 1997 Cheval Blanc was aged in 100% new oak barrels. 



The proportion of Merlot was exceptionally high (83%) in Cheval Blanc, whereas Petit Cheval had a correspondingly high percentage of Cabernet Franc (72%).

> Zoom plots


Degree of alcohol 12.5
Total acidity (g H2 S04/L) 3.36
Volatile acidity (g H2 SO4/L) 0.51
pH 3.63
Total SO2 (mg/L) 108
educing sugar content (g/L) 1.3
IPT (DO280) -


As opposed to 1996, 1997 consists largely of Merlot



Château Cheval Blanc produced a good wine in 1997 despite slightly underripe wines due to difficult weather conditions.

The fairly intense colour shows clear signs of age.

The nose is complex and concentrated with roasted and toasty aromas. However, there is also considerable fruit - notes of ripe red fruit and stone fruit that blend beautifully with fresh herbaceous overtones and exotic ones like coconut.

1997 Cheval Blanc starts off smooth, round, and flavoursome on the palate. The delicious crunchy fruit combines reflects the freshness of this remarkable vintage. The slightly austere finish is due to oak tannin that has not yet entirely integrated.

Making sure to avoid overripeness, Cheval Blanc succeeded in producing a fresh, elegant wine in this challenging vintage. It has aged fairly quickly.