Bordeaux wines range from the quaffable to the collectable, and one that you should have in your cellar is the 2005 Domaine de Chevalier.
Domaine de Chevalier is found on a 1763 map as Domaine de Chibaley, the Gascon word for knight. A century later, it was purchased by Arnaud and Jean Ricard and began its rise to fame. The Bernard family, successful Bordeaux wine and spirits traders, purchased the property from Claude Ricard in 1983. They tasked their 23-year old son, Olivier Bernard, to build upon its history of quality. For the last quarter-century, he has done exactly that.
I don’t know whether I first met Olivier Bernard on one of my trips to Bordeaux, or one of his to New York, but I do know that I liked his red and white wines from the first sip. Located in the village of Leognan, part of the Graves area of Bordeaux, Domaine de Chevalier is one of the very few chateaux in the entire region whose red and white wines have been classified Grand Cru Classe.
Earlier this month, at the Wine Media Guild, Olivier Bernard presented with his trademark candor and liveliness three vintages of his white wine: 2001, 2005, and 2007; and his red wine from 2000 to the 2007.
While the white 2001 displayed the structure that allows the domaine’s white wines to age decades, the 2005 was one of the most richly flavored and perfectly balanced wines I have tasted. Made from a blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon, the white 2005 Domaine de Chevalier will only gain complexity during the next 20 years.
The red 2005 Domaine de Chevalier has the white wine’s DNA. Ripe red fruit flavors and perfectly integrated tannins are the structure, and a velvety mouth feel with a long, lasting finish is the texture. The balance in the 2005 red is like the white; it tells you that both wines from this outstanding vintage belong in your cellar.
My last visit to Domaine de Chevalier was in June 2006, when I did a major tasting of the 2005 white and red wines of the Graves appellation and its sub-appellation, Pessac-Leognan. Reviewing my notes, both Domaine de Chevalier wines were praised in their infancy for their excellent balance, fruit flavors, and long finish.
After the tasting, I went to lunch at Les Sources de Caudalie, the stylish hotel at nearby Chateau Smith-Haut-Lafitte, with Remi Edange, the assistant manager at Domaine de Chevalier. He brought a half-bottle of the domaine’s 1983 white. This was the first vintage of Olivier Bernard’s tenure at Domaine de Chevalier, and a statement about his wines. It was alive and enjoyable- truly remarkable for a 23-year old white wine in a half-bottle format. But normal for Domaine de Chevalier, and a man who assumed responsibility for it when he was 23-years old.
The 2005 Domaine de Chevalier red wine retails for approximately $70; the white is about $125.