Wine Talk

Snooth User: panoskakaviatos

1961 Domaine de Chevalier red, 1981 white and many more: a lovely vertical

Posted by panoskakaviatos, Jan 30, 2011.

A special tasting of Domaine de Chevalier yesterday – Saturday 29 January – at Black Salt in Washington D.C.

Although a fish and seafood specialist, Chef Rick Cook impressed 27 participants with some superb meat-based dishes that went very well with one of the most memorable wines of the tasting: a youthful and still tannic 1961 red. Perhaps the most memorable wine was an amazingly youthful 1981 white. Over lunch, we enjoyed wines that ended in “1” because Domaine de Chevalier owner Olivier Bernard likes patterns, he explained. The 2001 white, for example, seems to be a fuller bodied version of the 1981, and will probably go on a very glacially-paced evolutionary track. It is delicious today, but wait another 10 years and it may well prove magical.

I organized the event for the chateau with the help of MacArthur Beverages and with the friendly staff of Black Salt. The chef picked out some dishes, and then I went over them with Olivier, who then picked out the wine pairings.

Domaine de Chevalier for me is a superb Graves from Bordeaux. Producing both red and white, it also seems to offer excellent price quality ratios. Its white, typically more expensive, rivals the far more expensive Laville Haut Brion (now La Mission Haut Brion white) and Haut Brion whites. I think it surpasses Pape Clement white, because the Pape Clement white can be too oaky, for my taste, and the wine is often made from super ripe grapes. It lends an overall impression of bigness, whereas the Domaine de Chevalier white is more about elegance, poise, and crystal clear precision. That said, the 2007 Pape Clement white was very nice last year... Still, overall, I prefer Domaine de Chevalier.

The reds of Domaine de Chevalier have not been as celebrated as the whites, although more experienced participants at yesterday's tasting pointed out how good the 1978 is. And we very much enjoyed the red 1991 from magnum. But quality has increased in recent years, most critics agree, and that means that they can be bargains, still. A delicious red 2002, for example, can be found still for under $40.

Olivier Bernard wanted to emphasize the reds, so before lunch, the participants – a gathering of Washington DC based sommeliers, merchants, bloggers and wine lovers – got a chance to taste the 10 most recent vintages, including a 2009 barrel sample. All the wines, 32 bottles, were shipped in December, ex-chateau, and none had cork issues, so we were lucky.

Full tasting notes and photos here.

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Reply by dmcker, Jan 31, 2011.

 Thanks, and once again you've come up with one of my favorites. Have been drinking both the white and the red since the '80s, from vintages from the '50s. Just bought a batch of 2005 reds that I don't intend to open for awhile.

The white is really a special wine, I think, perhaps even more than you described. I grab some pretty much every chance I get. And the red is definitely excellent in specific vintages. A '96 I had recently was still a bit closed, but am looking forward to trying it in a few more years. Love that oldskool austerity that provides such rewards later.


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