The Chinese New Year 2014 begins on 31st January 2014 and is the Year of the Horse. According to Chinese astrology, the associated element is Wood and the colour connected with Wood is green, so 2014 is the Year of the Green Wood Horse. What’s more the Chinese Lantern Festival (observed on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year and known as the Chinese Valentine’s Day) also falls on the same day as Saint Valentine’s Day on February 14th this year. As you can imagine businesses have been quick to take advantage of marketing goods to celebrate the year of the Horse, including wine producers. . .
Okanagen Crush Pad in British Columbia have released just under 700 bottles of the 2012 Haywire Pinot Noir bearing a limited edition label depicting the symbols of the Horse and good fortune (plus a handy Asian food and wine pairing guide).
The Horse is the 7th sign in the Chinese zodiac and is looked upon with favour by many Chinese who equate the sign with grace, power, perseverance, nobility, strength and freedom. However whether 2014 will be a lucky year is not so certain – the number 4 is considered to be unlucky by the Chinese because it is similar to the word ‘death’. This is taken quite seriously, – some lifts in Chinese buildings omit the the number 4 (there is no 4th floor!) and certain operators of public transport in Singapore omit the number 4 on their registration plates.
In the wine trade we usually see Grand Cru Classé being snapped up in the New Year as part of the Chinese custom of gift giving and the obvious choice for the Year of the Horse would have to be the Saint Emilion First Growth Chateau Cheval Blanc (Chateau of the White Horse) and their Second Wine Le Petit Cheval (The Little Horse). Owned by Bernard Arnault, chairman of luxury goods group LVMH, and Belgian businessman Albert Frère, Cheval Blanc has a good distribution network in Asia thanks to LVMH.
The story behind Cheval Blanc’s name is that the chateau was built on an old inn which was named Cheval Blanc. King Henry IV (1553 1610) once stayed at the inn, having ridden there on his famous white steed. The French still have a joke which goes De quelle couleur est le cheval blanc de Henri Quatre? (What colour was Henry IV’s white horse?)
Unusually, Saint Emilion, boasts two more chateaux named after horses. Chateau Cheval Noir (Chateau of the Black Horse) is one of the top wines from Mahler Besse, who have owned the property since 1937. Hubert de Bouard, owner of Chateau Angelus, has acted as consultant there since 2011. The chateau was named in 1895 after a legendary sleek and powerful black horse that toiled in the vineyards.
Chateau Cheval Brun (Chateau of the Brown Horse) also lies in Saint Emilion and is one of several chateaux owned by the Rivière family, who have been wine producers and negotiants since 1875. The family have some of the best monolithic cellars in which to age their wines in the limestone rocks under the town of Saint Emilion. Sadly there is no record of how the chateau acquired its name – if anyone knows, please get in touch!
Cheval Noir and Cheval Brun may not be as famous as their neighbour Cheval Blanc but you would be surprised to learn how switched-on their producers are. Both these wines are sold abroad in Asia. A clever punt on their part perhaps? I wonder whether Saint Emilion will be on a winning streak this year thanks to the Chinese Year of the Horse? Stranger things have happened.
If Saint Emilion is too far away for you and you are looking for something closer to home and not in the price bracket of Cheval Blanc you may wish to consider our Chateau Chevalier d’Albran which has a horse on its label?