Domaine de Chevalier is located in a clearing in the middle of a forest that protects the vines from extremes of temperature. In fact, Chevalier is a sort of secret garden, far from the limelight. This is something of a paradox for such an excellent wine, among the greatest in Bordeaux. «Only a great terroir can produce a great wine… I often start out with these words when speaking about Domaine de Chevalier.
“Chevalier’s history is an integral part of its identity... The true birth of the estate dates back to the second half of the 19th century. Until not so long ago, the forest took up most of the western part of the Graves, where we are located. How things have changed since then!
Archives from the 17th century show us that the small Domaine de Chivaley included “houses, outbuildings, gardens, grounds, vines, woods, and meadows.” The name "Chivaley", (meaning "knight" in Gascon) is believed to be linked, for an unknown reason, to the presence of the very old pilgrim trail to Santiago de Compostela which still borders the estate.
The term domaine, later replaced by château, originally had a wider meaning that has since disappeared. It referred to an ensemble, as at Chivaley, formed by a family residence and agricultural estate in which viticulture coexisted with other crops and breeding...”
“One of things that makes Chevalier unique is how it achieved fame in a relatively short time compared to the majority of Bordeaux great growths, which took several centuries to acquire a similar status… Of course, this is due to the terroir, but I would add that Domaine de Chevalier’s great chance was to have been managed by a limited number of owners, who all considered it essential to perpetuate a tradition of quality. The previous owners can be thanked for Chevalier’s present image of a famous wine at the top of its classification”.
“Only three men have managed Domaine de Chevalier from time it was acquired by Arnaud and Jean Ricard in 1865 until it was purchased by my family in 1983. As for Jean Ricard, I would say that he is the true creator of Chevalier as we know it. However, his son-in-law, Gabriel Beaumartin, who was at Chevalier for forty years, was responsible for crystallising its reputation”.
“Claude Ricard had been running the estate for thirty-five years when I arrived in 1983. He was much respected and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of winegrowing. Under his leadership, the estate was included among the elite grands crus in the 1953 classification of the Graves. It is also thanks to Claude Ricard that the château gained a true international dimension… We worked together for five years, which enabled me to understand Chevalier’s true nature”.
“In 1983, my family, until then specialised in the sale of grape brandy and Bordeaux great growths, decided to purchase the Domaine de Chevalier… When I was asked to become the new manager, I was fully conscious of – and attracted to – the tremendous challenge.”_
My family’s wishes were clear. I was to further the work accomplished over the past 120 years and adopt a long-term approach.This was to be based on maintaining the family tradition and continuing to produce a superb and famous wine, steeped in history. In keeping with this mission, I was able to make major investments in the vineyard and cellar. In short, I prepared the estate for the new millennium…
“Considerable efforts have been made since 1983… The vineyard, currently in full production, was appreciably expanded and all aspects of winegrowing were revisited. We cleared trees, constructed buildings, and reconfigured the vineyard. Nothing was left to chance… Even though the transition was smooth, the estate’s whole appearance, as well as its image, changed greatly.”
“A constantly improving understanding of the terroir and a precise assessment of ripeness (always within the context of the vintage year) make it possible to anticipate, make the right choices, and limit risks. It is hard to describe the intensity of the vintage at Domaine du Chevalier, with its accompanying anxiety and numerous trips through the vineyard. Vintage time calls for total commitment, with constant mental concentration and physical activity. A successful wine depends on the effort that has been made during the vintage, and the taking of measured risks – keeping in mind that everything happens very quickly. For example, waiting three extra days for certain plots of Cabernet to ripen further can be a key factor in quality.”
“The crop is watched over especially carefully as of three or four weeks before the estimated harvest date. The juice is regularly analysed and sugar levels determined. We also taste the grapes because, when all is said and done, this is the only way to appreciate the quality of the juice.
Tasting the grapes is particularly important for red wine grapes seeing as physiological and phenolic maturity are not necessarily reached at the same time...
Repeated taste tests and laboratory analyses enable us to determine the picking order for grapes in each plot in accordance with specific characteristics of the vintage”.