Mähler-Besse “Cheval Noir” Grand Vin, Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux, France 2009

It is Thursday. Work-weariness be damned. I could use a drink.

Since we reached Bordeaux with Monday’s EU Austerity Drinking Tour, nostalgic, I decide to crack open a Bordelaise stateside.  Tonight’s entry derives from Saint-Emilion: famed sub-region on the Dordogne River’s right bank.

Saint-Émilion Bordeaux Wine Map

That blue blob #21 is Saint-Émilion

The world drinks and grows Merlot because of Saint-Émilion.  Veins remain in its chalky cliffs, cut by Roman vine roots nearly two millennia ago.  Sideways may have tarnished the grape and drunk Cheval Blanc from a paper cup.  But wines from Saint-Émilion steadfastly remain the most expensive and collected worldwide.

Tonight, we drink 2009′s Cheval Noir (no relation to the famed Blanc).

ChevalNoir2009The established négociant Mähler-Besse produced it from sustainably grown grapes.  70% of them are Merlot, followed by 20% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Appearance: The wine looks filtered, clear, with a deepish ruby core and a moderately clear rim turning the clock towards garnet.

Aroma: It smells moderately intensely of plum pudding and rye bread, with hints of warm kirsch sneaking up from its core, framed by a wafer of vanilla and a bit of earth and musk.

Palate: The dry palate has decent acidity and some tannin. However, this is ripe, plush, medium-plus bodied stuff.  2009′s famed warmth and easy growing season shine here. Tannins tighten down this big ship nicely though.

Flavor: Decently complex, moderately intense flavors of fig newton, kirsch, and tart bramble fruit vie against newspaper ash, nettles, and pencil-like minerals for a medium length.

Conclusions: I don’t want to like Cheval Noir.  Yet I appreciate its attempt to be taken seriously.  The char, earth, and tannin somehow keep all that ripe fruit from becoming too New World.

Cheval Noir is not classic or textbook.  But it manages to please yet engender respect.  Very good (4 of 5).

This black sheep mimics and mocks it’s famed roommate, Cheval Blanc (one of only four Premier Grand Cru Classé “A”, averaging over $700).  But it knows what it is.  A less-austerely self-titled “Grand Vin”, that costs under $20. A red for us masses, who know enough to spend a bit more on AOCs like Saint-Émilion, rather than generic Bordeaux.

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2 Responses to Mähler-Besse “Cheval Noir” Grand Vin, Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux, France 2009

  1. sand110 says:

    Interesting. Is there a list of vintners in France known for sustainable wines? Do they have tasting competitions amongst the Bordeaux vintners?

    • waywardwine says:

      There will be lists from certification companies, like Demeter, Green String, and others, since they all have different standards. Bordeaux often throws on competition tastings, but the most famous are the primeur tastings of the vintage to come, very select get in, mostly critics.

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