The Château Cheval Blanc is a Grand Cru Classé A from Saint-Émilion, in the Libournais region. It shares the stage with highly praised estates, such as the Château Angélus, the Château Pavie and the Château Ausone. The "Cheval-Blanc" locality has existed since the 16th century (as the name can be found in documents dated from 1546) but the eponymous wine estate only appeared during the 18th century. Back then, there was no castle, only a small farm known as the "Barrail des Caillous". Its owner was already making wine, as was the case with many farmers all over the Bordeaux region at the time. The wine produced there was simply called "Vin de Figeac". A rather generic name.
In 1832, a magistrate from Libourne, Jean-Jacques Ducasse, was looking to expand the land surrounding his castle in Figeac. To do so, he bought the little farm and its vineyard, and renamed them "Domaine Cheval Blanc". Two years later, Jean-Jacques decided to turn his brand new acquisition into a real wine estate. To do so, he got rid of the traditional "Figeac" appellation and fully adopted the "Cheval Blanc" moniker. In his vineyard, he planted Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes. An odd choice of blend, that he cultivated without using any kind of chemicals. In 1852, Ducasses' very first cuvées were released and met with critical acclaim. Cheval Blanc later obtained many gold medals at the Universal Exhibitions of London and Paris, from 1862 to 1886. The first of many victories for this future great wine.
When Jean-Jacques' daughter Henriette Ducasse married Jean Laussac-Fourcaud, her new family-in-law gradually took the helm of the wine business, modernizing its equipment and greatly improving its reputation. In the late 19th century, thanks to maritime trade, the Domaine Cheval Blanc was now sold all over Europe and the United States. 1954 was probably the finest year in the Château's existence, as it entered the official Bordeaux Grands Crus Classification. An incredible achievement, allowing it to definitely cement its reputation as a fine wine estate. It was now part of a very private club, with the likes of Château Margaux, Château Latour and Château Pétrus.
In order to diversify its offers, the Château Cheval Blanc also started producing its "Petit Cheval" cuvée in 1988. A second wine, made with the same care and skill as the first one. The Laussac-Fourcaud family (Jean at first, then his son Albert and his two grandsons Joseph and Jacques) was in charge of the Château until 1998. That year, French billionaire Bernard Arnault and owner of the prestigious brand LVMH, partnered with Belgian investor Albert Frère and bought the Cheval Blanc with its 40 hectares of grapevines (45 parcels in total, treated like 45 smaller vineyards). The two businessmen hired Pierre Luton to manage the estate, asking him to balance authenticity and modernity.