• Domaine: Cheval des Andes
• Appellation: Mendoza
• Origin: Argentina
• Importer: Laguna Cellar
The story of Cheval des Andes began exactly twenty years ago. At its origin is the Argentine winery, Terrazas de los Andes, one of the pioneers in wine growing in Mendoza. Pierre Lurton, General Manager at Cheval Blanc, studied the "terroirs" of Las Compuertas with Roberto de la Mota and had the ingenious idea of blending the expertise of Cheval Blanc with the purest, Originl expression of Malbec, king of the Argentine grape varieties.
Conceived in 1999, Cheval des Andes has inherited 200 years of expertise in the art of blending from Cheval Blanc. Without a doubt, this vision of wine growing is completely unusual as it combines two very different "terroirs" coupled with two legendary grape varieties and a desire to create complexity out of diversity. Today, the vision of committed viticulturists has been achieved through twenty years of daily care in these unique vineyards which now produce a genuine "grand cru" of the Andes.
"In the last few years, a handful of wines from Chile and Argentina—often French owned—have been released in September through the Place de Bordeaux, the network of négociants that sell most of the Bordeaux wines and some of the leading wines from other regions. The 2017 Cheval des Andes is one such wine. 2017 saw an early harvest, but they started picking on the 6th of March and continued until the 10th of April, more or less normal dates, early but not so much. The varietal break down this vintage comes to 62% Malbec and 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, and the wine is slightly riper and higher in alcohol than 2016 (this 2017 is 14.2% alcohol). The different plots fermented separately with selected yeasts, and the élevage lasted for 15 months and was in 50/50 new and second use barrels, 90% of them French and the rest made with wood from Eastern Europe. They used 45% Bordeaux barrels, 45% 400-liter barrels and, for the first time, a 2,500-liter oak foudre. This is clearly the darkest of the trio of vintages I tasted together here—2015, 2016 and 2017—but all three have the elegant and powerful profile, the luxurious and creamy character found in the best Bordeaux wines in the last few years, wines of power with precision, concentration, energy and finesse. This seems to combine the clout of the 2015 and the freshness of the 2016 and feels something in between those two vintages. Their work in the vineyard toward the maturity of the tannins meant the challenge in 2017 was to not let the grapes ripen too fast and too early. The work is different for Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, to get round tannins in Cabernet and get some tension in Malbec, the contrary of the normal tendency of the varieties. 2017 has less ripeness than the 2015 but more density than the 2016. The texture is velvety, precise and harmonious. This year, they introduced a larger foudre for 10% of the wine, with the aim to reach 20%, so that volume is increasing every year. I think this is showing more precision, and in a more challenging year, they managed to keep the quality on par with 2016. They have changed the label this year, to a cleaner and more elegant label that also reflects the direction the wine is going in. 81,500 bottles produced. It was bottled in January 2019." - Luis Gutiérrez, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate (8/31/2020, Issue 250), Ratings: 97+, Drink: 2020-2034