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Domaine de Chevalier: An Interview with Olivier Bernard
A Family Estate, Grand Cru Classé de Graves, Pessac—Léognan Region, Bordeaux, France
Introducing Olivier Bernard, Administrator General/Winemaker for the family estate, Domaine de Chevalier, Famille Bernard, and also the vineyards of Clos des Lunes…He was my favorite interview in all of my France press tours this summer. Not only does he make brilliant wines, but he also has made some of the smartest business decisions I have seen among the winemakers of France. He is open to new ideas, new regions to make his superb White and Red Bordeaux (Grand Cru Classé ranked), and he seems to know everyone in France! Of course, as the past President of the Union of Grand Crus of Bordeaux, Olivier certainly has impressive colleagues.
“I really believe if you give me good fruit, I’ll give you a good wine. The techniques of humans are only there to help the expression of the fruit. And you can only make great wine if you have great passion.” -Olivier Bernard, Domaine de Chevalier
Video Photography: Brian and Wendy Hatfield
About Olivier Bernard’s Philosophy on Winemaking
Not surprising, in 2019 Wine Spectator placed Domaine de Chevalier # 23rd among its “Top 100” in wine. The history of the Domaine begins in 1865, but in 1983 the Bernard family reconfigured the vineyards and reimagined the wines producing spectacular Red and White Bordeaux blends. The red and white wines of Domaine de Chevalier are highly ranked (see below) and they also make a lovely rosé wine.
“I blend from 25 different plots of Cabernet Sauvignon. Like children from the same parents, each plot of Cabernet Sauvignon is different.” – Olivier Bernard, Domaine de Chevalier
In 2011 Olivier then made a smart business decision. He took a look at the magnificent rolling hills of Sauternes where old Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc vines grow. He purchased vineyards at a great price in one of France’s most legendary regions, as there had been a recent downturn in the public’s consumption of Sauternes sweet dessert wines. He was able to reimagine these grapes for making the dry White Bordeaux similar to those he makes in his famous estate in the Pessac-Léognan region. What a great plan for making affordable White Bordeaux in an unexpected place! Thus, the Clos de Lunes brand was born offering three different, great value, wines, Clos des Lunes D’Or, Clos des Lunes D’Argent, and Clos des Lunes Blanc.
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The Pessac-Léognan Region of Bordeaux – What is So Remarkable?
The pine trees nearby, the soil containing ancient seashells, the biodiverse forest protection from the proximity of the Atlantic Ocean…all help define the terroir* of the prestigious Pessac-Léognan region. It is home to Domaine de Chevalier and other great wineries within the larger Graves region of Bordeaux. The wines are based predominantly either on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc (for the red wines) or Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon (for the white wines). Premium winemakers blend from multiple harvested plots and separately fermented each batch or cuvée. The best of the vats and barrels go into their “first label” wines, the others into their second wines, which may be a great value if purchased in a good vintage year.
In addition to Domaine de Chevalier other great chateaux of the region include: Haut-Brion, La Mission Haut-Brion, Laville Haut-Brion, Pape Clément, Haut-Bailly, Léognan, Malartic-Lagravière, and Smith Haut Lafitte.
“The best wine of my life is the wine I make tomorrow.” – Olivier Bernard, Domaine de Chevalier
Visiting the Pessac-Léognan Region
I hope you enjoyed the interview with Olivier Bernard with the lovely vineyards of his family estate in Pessac-Léognan behind us. I recommend a pre-arranged tour and tasting there. Don’t forget to see the light and music show highlighting the estate wines with “C’est Si Bon” playing (here with Eartha Kitt) playing in the background for some upcoming events. I think Olivier is a terrific showman, too.
The estate is located just 30 minutes southwest of Bordeaux city center and can be accessed by car, Uber, or a metro/taxi combination.
*Terroir: *What is it? Terroir is a French term representing the special combination of climate, soil, geography, elevation, aspect, sunlight hours, and growing conditions that are unique to a vineyard that can impart characteristics to a wine. Does this wine express the aromas, body, and flavor unique to its terroir? Does this wine have a “sense of place”? The great ones often do.
Robert Parker, 97 Points, Decanter, 95 Points
Wine Enthusiast, 97 Points
James Suckling, 93 Points
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