Olivier Bernard Talks Bordeaux

Olivier Bernard, owner of Domaine de Chevalier, doesn’t like to hear people say they only like Bordeaux or they only like Burgundy.

A true wine lover is someone who embraces all good wine. “You need all types, for different situations and meals. You make your choice on the day according to the situation. Choice is what makes you free. If you only drink Chateau Lafite, you are not free.”

Bernard said some vintages are for drinking while others are maturing in the cellar. “2011, ’12 and ’13 are three of the most difficult years we have had, but they are wines to drink young, while you are waiting for the great years. Every year is different. In Bordeaux 2009 and ’10 are two of the best ever vintages. Most winemakers in Bordeaux have made their best ever wines in these two vintages. They are five-plus stars out of five. These are the best vintages we have seen since 1959 and 1961. But one thing is sure: we will see them surpassed in the next 10 years.”

The reasons are that the quality of viticulture and winemaking is better than it’s ever been, and that the best vintages are warmer than before, bringing very ripe grapes. “In Bordeaux, a warm vintage is a good vintage, and a warm terroir is a good terroir. In Australia, you have plenty of warmth: you have your foot on the brake, whereas in Bordeaux we have our foot on the gas.”

The last three vintages have been cold, however. But even in cold vintages there is good news, because white wines are good in cold vintages – while reds are good in warmer vintages. 2010 was especially great for Sauternes, Bernard said. Graves-based Domaine de Chevalier is famous for its whites as well as its reds. The whites are blended from sauvignon blanc and semillon. We tasted Chevalier rouge from 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010 (tasting) and 2011 (tasting), and blanc from 2006, 2008 (tasting) and 2010 (tasting).

The 2010 red was a great wine, and I quote Olivier Bernard who said “The 2010 is the best wine I’ve made in my life.” But he also classes 2011 as a great vintage, although it’s a bit behind ’10. We did not taste the ‘09 but, asked to compare 2010 and ’09, which are back-to-back famously great vintages, Bernard said “The ’09 will be the better wine over the next 10 years but after that, the ’10 will be best.” 

A selection of Domaine de Chevalier white and red is being retailed through Langton’s. The 2010 red is $150 and 2009, $170. 

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