The Argentine Terroir and French Savoir-Faire of a Unique Malbec Blend
The story of Cheval des Andes dates back to the 1990's, when Pierre Lurton, President of the legendary Premier Cru Classe A estate Chateau Cheval Blanc in the Saint-Emilion appellation of Bordeaux, visited Argentina and toured the vineyards of Terrazas de los Andes in Mendoza. After tasting the Malbec wine produced from the estate's 80-year-old Las Compuertas vineyard, Lurton felt captivated by the quality of the wine made from this varietal that was once decimated by phylloxera in the vineyards of Saint-Emilion and Pomerol. He saw a deep connection to the past of Chateau Cheval Blanc in the reemergence of Malbec in the terroirs of Argentina and, motivated by this historical bond, he paved the way for Cheval des Andes, a collaboration between the prestigious Bordeaux estate and Terrazas de los Andes. This project would see a seemless fusion of the very best of French savoir faire with the very best high-altitude terroirs of Argentina, a union of old and new worlds that would lead to a single extraordinary wine.
The Cheval des Andes 2013 is made with grapes sourced from vineyards over 1,000 meters above sea level, the La Consulta vineyard of Valle de Uco and Las Compuertas district of Vistalba. The latter is a 50-hecate vineyard, which enjoys irrigation in the form of pure meltwater from the Andes Mountains and a well-draining soil of sandy-loam upon stone. The high degree of temperature variation between the warm daytime and crisp, fresh nighttime results in a slow, gradual ripening of the grapes. The vineyards are managed on a plot-by-plot basis and according to organic and sustainable principles, without the use of synthetic products. The blend is made up of 67% Malbec, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Petit Verdot and aged for 15-18 in French oak, of which 30% is new and 70% is of second use.
The Cheval des Andes 2013 of Chateau Cheval Blanc and Terrazas de los Andes displays an intense red color with purple reflections in the glass. On the nose, this wine is very subtle, yet precise, offering fresh aromas of violet and pepper along with warm, ripe fruits, including raspberry and black fruits. Product of a very hot vintage, the Cheval des Andes 2013 is very full in body, with concentrated flavors and a very fine tannic structure. The finish of this wine is tense, with a gorgeous acdity and freshness at the very end.
Wine Advocate-Parker :
At Cheval des Andes they consider 2013 as a warm vintage, because even if the winter saw average temperatures, the spring and summer were warmer than normal. The 2013 Cheval des Andes came up to 67% Malbec, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Petit Verdot mostly from their vineyards at Las Compuertas at some 1,1000 meters altitude and some fruit from their 15 hectares at La Consulta in the Valle de Uco, that they use when they don't find it too ripe. Even if they tend to pick early, the bottled wine is a ripe and heady blend hitting the scale at 15% alcohol fermented relatively warm (28 degrees Celsius) for some 25 days. After malolactic in tank, all different lots go into barrel and they try to make the blend as soon as possible, usually during the first winter so the wine ages together for some 15 to 18 months in French oak barriques. They have reduced the amount of new wood used (only 30%) to avoid overwhelming the fruit with aromas but providing complexity and clarifying the wine naturally. From this vintage onward they have been able to not acidify the wine, as they changed their approach to viticulture, and they are now able to burn the green notes and harvest early, with natural acidity and lower alcohol. The key to this is to get something like 30-35 hectoliters per hectare. I think this is absolutely the right approach, and this change started in 2010--with 100% estate fruit, no oenological products used, fresh maturity without greenness through lower yields. In 2013, they consider they have achieved what they want, but kept improving in 2014, 2015 and 2016. The 2014 had just been bottled and I didn't have the chance to taste it, but they told me they prefer 2014 to 2013. If that is the case, 2014 should be mind-blowing, because 2013 is simply superb. To Pierre Olivier Clouet, another key point is how to manage irrigation. The result of all this is more and more precise wines, with greater definition, purity and freshness. They are also avoiding residual sugar, so the wines are completely dry. They also started to work with 500-liter oak barrels, trying to find the integration of the oak keeping the percentage of new barrels but using larger ones. Malbec is quite sensitive to oak, and again, this approach has worked perfectly here. Finally, they are also moderating extraction, with a longer maceration but less pumping over, because with too much pumping over you have the risk of extracting too much dry tannin. It has great balance and freshness, with great elegance, and super-refined tannins. I've never tasted such an elegant Cheval des Andes, all about finesse and balance. Bravo to the new team! I'm really looking for ward to tasting the following vintages. 70,000 bottles produced. It was bottled in March 2015.