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Cru Curious: Cheval des Andes, Mendoza

Cru Curious: Cheval des Andes, Mendoza

Cheval des Andes, Mendoza, Argentina 2008 ($80)

This deep ruby-colored wine, with hints of garnet, displays a breadth of aromatics with smoke, cigar box, pencil shavings, cherry jam, eucalyptus, and fig coming through. Enjoy now, will improve for five years, and hold for another five. Pair with grilled red meats, sausage and mushroom risotto, or rosemary-braised lamb shanks.

The blend is based on malbec and cabernet sauvignon, and the producer may add small quantities of merlot, cabernet franc, and petit verdot depending on the vintage. The 2008 back label states a blend of 50 percent cabernet sauvignon and 50 percent malbec. The two grape varieties make distinct contributions to the character of this wine; the malbec offers up red fruit and softness while the cabernet sauvignon is providing structure and complexity.

Cheval des Andes is the product of a joint venture between the prestigious Château Cheval Blanc of Bordeaux and Terrazas de los Andes in Argentina. In the 1990s, Pierre Lurton (Managing Director at Château Cheval Blanc and Château d’Yquem) looked for terroir outside of France in which to make wine. He was taken by the idea of using pre-phylloxera, ungrafted malbec. A collaboration was born, and the first vintage of Cheval des Andes was produced in 1999. The grapes are sourced from Las Compuertas Vineyard in Vistalba. The collaboration aims to create a “Grand Cru” of the Andes, or a marriage of Bordeaux winemaking techniques with the rich fruit of Argentina. Altitude is key to quality in Mendoza; higher altitudes mean cooler nights, preserving acidity, and developing finesse. Pierre Lurton still periodically consults with chief winemaker Nicolas Audebert.

The 2008 Cheval des Andes is a well-made, premium-priced wine. Stylistically, it offers the ripe fruit-forwardness of the New World with an eye to the Old World. The challenge for this self-named and ambitious “Grand Cru”, because of its strong Bordeaux inspiration and association, is that it places itself in competition with Bordeaux, even though it is using malbec much more substantially. It opens itself up to comparisons. For the same price, you can get a very fine Bordeaux. Does this wine justify its cost? It does, for consumers looking specifically for this type of blend in a fruit-forward style.

Cheval des Andes imports 1,500 cases to the U.S. and is available nationwide.


These are wines to suit a meaty meal

Wine is regarded as important as the Brazilian food that’s served there.

Many of the walls are racked with bottles and, tucked away, is a small arched room containing rare wines for those who want to venture beyond the main list.

The restaurant even has Coravin – that magical device that allows a glass to be drawn from high-end bottles without the wine left inside spoiling through contact with air, thus giving people the opportunity to enjoy expensive wine they possibly couldn’t afford by the bottle.

The emphasis throughout Fazenda’s wine lists is, naturally, on wines from South America (though there are European wines, too).

There are plenty of labels featuring that region’s signature grape malbec, but there are also bottles that feature grapes less associated with Latin America such as tannat and cabernet franc.

Wines are selected carefully to complement the meat-driven menu at the restaurant.

Here, Chris Milner, the senior manager in charge of the small independently-owned chain’s wine list, provides some fantastic advice on wines he’d choose to enjoy over food at Fazenda.

Catena “Appellation” Vista Flores Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza £31.00

From the pioneers of high altitude wine making in Argentina, a stunning wine at this price.

Both ripe and fresh, with abundant dark fruits this expertly made wine is a joy.

After years of exploration, locals are finding the best plots of land for their grapes and are developing a naming system similar to Bordeaux and Burgundy.

In the new year Fazenda will start importing its own wine from Catena that will be well worth a try!

Miolo Lote 43, Vale dos Vinhedos, Brazil £58.05.

The flagship wine from Brazilian producer, Miolo.

Bramble flavours, toast and great ageing potential, but I’m happy with it now.

Cheval Des Andes, La Consulta, Mendoza £140.00

If you refer to yourself as the ‘Grand Cru of the Andes’ then you had better be good.

That kind of boastfulness doesn’t go down well around here!

This is a joint venture between the legendary Bordeaux first growth Bordeaux first growth Chateau Cheval Blanc and Terrazas de los Andes in Mendoza

This is malbec-lead but with a hint of cabernet and petit verdot. It’s truly opulent. Malbec is all the rage right now but those extra spices make an incredible blend.

The 2004 is one of the finest wines I’ve tried. We are on 2012 now, though don’t let that put you off!

The intensity of sunshine allows ripeness that make the wine vibrant and drinkable at six years old, which would be unthinkable for their French counterparts.


Cheval des Andes 2014 Red (Mendoza)

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Jammy berry aromas combined with fine oak result in nuances of chocolate, forest floor, mushroom and cool earth. This Malbec-heavy blend comes out screaming with tannins and tartaric bite. Big flavors of black plum, blackberry and vanilla spread out over a wide but youthful finish. Give this more time to integrate and settle best from 2020–2026. Michael Schachner

How We Blind Taste

All tastings reported in the Buying Guide are performed blind. Typically, products are tasted in peer-group flights of from 5-8 samples. Reviewers may know general information about a flight to provide context&mdashvintage, variety or appellation&mdashbut never the producer or retail price of any given selection. When possible, products considered flawed or uncustomary are retasted.

Ratings reflect what our editors felt about a particular product. Beyond the rating, we encourage you to read the accompanying tasting note to learn about a product’s special characteristics.


Cheval des Andes 2007 Red (Mendoza)

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A touch saucy on the nose, with tomato and herbal aromas infiltrating baked berry fruit scents. Feels fresh and clacky, with less extract and body than in the past but also more elegance. Tastes snappy and mildly herbal, with a juicy, slightly lean finish. Food friendly drink now through 2013. Michael Schachner

How We Blind Taste

All tastings reported in the Buying Guide are performed blind. Typically, products are tasted in peer-group flights of from 5-8 samples. Reviewers may know general information about a flight to provide context&mdashvintage, variety or appellation&mdashbut never the producer or retail price of any given selection. When possible, products considered flawed or uncustomary are retasted.

Ratings reflect what our editors felt about a particular product. Beyond the rating, we encourage you to read the accompanying tasting note to learn about a product’s special characteristics.


Cheval des Andes 2005 Red (Mendoza)

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Consistency in the wine world is a virtue, and Cheval covers the consistency issue with ease. Aromas of earth, mushroom, leather and so forth add an Old World touch to this New World Malbec-Cabernet blend. It's healthy and even juicy on the palate, with blackberry, dark plum and tobacco flavors. An interesting wine that grabs and holds your attention. Drink now through 2012. Michael Schachner

How We Blind Taste

All tastings reported in the Buying Guide are performed blind. Typically, products are tasted in peer-group flights of from 5-8 samples. Reviewers may know general information about a flight to provide context&mdashvintage, variety or appellation&mdashbut never the producer or retail price of any given selection. When possible, products considered flawed or uncustomary are retasted.

Ratings reflect what our editors felt about a particular product. Beyond the rating, we encourage you to read the accompanying tasting note to learn about a product’s special characteristics.


Can a new world wine be Grand Cru? Winemaker Gerald Gabillet responds

Traversing wine terminologies can be almost as intimidating as stepping into a whisky bar not knowing the difference between a Scotch and Bourbon. How is an old world wine different from the new world ones? How much does terroir affect the resulting taste of the wine? (Plenty, apparently) What in the world is a Grand Cru, and is it only reserved for old world wines? Now that is an answer that Cheval des Andes winemaker Gerald Gabillet may be able to provide.

The world of wines always had a high barrier to entry, designed for the most matured and refined of taste buds. The changing of wine trends can also be confusing for the casual wine drinker. Once upon a time, old world wines were considered a luxury for royalty. But now, new world wines are also increasing in popularity. And then, there’s the other pressing question of old world wines using new world trends and vice versa.

The Cheval des Andes winery in Mendoza, Argentina.. (Picture: Cheval des Andes)

But before all that, let’s get the basics sorted out: the difference between old world and new world wine. Old world wine generally refers to wines originating from Europe and the Mediterranean region — places with a long history of winemaking. It doesn’t necessarily mean a generalised style of winemaking, but more of the traditional philosophies of winemaking and terroir — the environmental factors that affect the crop.

In contrast, new world wine would generally encompass wines made from crops grown anywhere else outside of the old world wine territory — including Argentina, Australia, and the United States. While the old world style is to bank in on traditional philosophies when it comes to winemaking, new world wines tend to champion technology to make the crops work in their favour.

Then again, there are some new world wine territories that take on old world philosophies. One such brand is Cheval des Andes. A brainchild of Cheval Blanc and Terrazas de los Andes, the brand combines the savoir-faire of the former in blending and the latter’s Argentine high-altitude terroirs. Together, they create Cheval des Andes, a Grand Cru of the Andes region.

Gerald Gabillet is the newest winemaker to join Cheval des Andes. (Picture: Moet Hennessy Diageo)

As one who hails from Bordeaux, part of the old world wine territories, Gabillet could see for himself the difference. “My generation is lucky because we had all the knowledge of terroir passed down to us by our forefathers,” he says. “But when it comes to new world territories, you have to create this knowledge step-by-step. We can see now that Argentina is starting to have its own history, yet we still have much to discover.”

In the spirit of merging both old world and new world identities, Gabillet says that in Cheval des Andes, the new world element — that is, technology — lies more in the vineyard than in the winemaking process. “Our goal is to not intervene too much in winemaking,” he stresses. Instead, he says, they want to utilise the natural expression of the crops, hence why they intervene in the vineyard. “We want to enhance the quality of the fruit to have the best tannins. Then, winemaking becomes very easy.”

Unlike most Argentine wines that are generally known to be intensely flavoured, Cheval des Andes wants to go the opposite direction. “Often, (at Cheval des Andes) we speak about research on the complexity rather than intensity,” says Gabillet. “We think about a quiet ageing process and not to add too much oak, to preserve the natural expression of the wine.”

Cheval des Andes combines the savoir-faire of Cheval Blanc with the terroir of the high-altitude Andes region. (Photo: Mathieu Mamontoff/Cheval des Andes.)

For old world wines, it’s very easy to determine which ones are certified Grand Cru. It’s a regional wine classification made for vineyards that are known for their good reputation for producing wines. But for new world wine territories, that certification is a little harder to come by because it’s just so young. How then, we asked Gabillet, do you determine this new world wine as a Grand Cru? The short answer: It’s how much details you can control.

“When you think of producing a Grand Cru wine, you will want to include the natural expression of the place, the notion of terroir, its maximum disposition, and the very fact that the wine you smell and taste makes you think of a particular type of terroir,” he explains. This means knowing to control as many details in the entire winemaking process from the crops to the final blending process. Gabillet gives an example of how even a 10% difference in how much oak is added would change the entire process.

“All these details will add up, creating a Grand Cru wine,” says Gabillet, by way of explaining the new world Grand Cru.


Cheval des Andes 2011 Red (Mendoza)

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Deep, subtle, earthy aromas of blackberry, mint, coffee and forest mist are cool and collected. This voluminous, dense blend of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon is chewy and deep, and not too fierce. Saturated flavors of blackberry and chocolate finish with rooty berry, chocolate and mocha flavors. Drink from 2017–2025. Michael Schachner

How We Blind Taste

All tastings reported in the Buying Guide are performed blind. Typically, products are tasted in peer-group flights of from 5-8 samples. Reviewers may know general information about a flight to provide context&mdashvintage, variety or appellation&mdashbut never the producer or retail price of any given selection. When possible, products considered flawed or uncustomary are retasted.

Ratings reflect what our editors felt about a particular product. Beyond the rating, we encourage you to read the accompanying tasting note to learn about a product’s special characteristics.


We’re Toasting: Malbec

Hawaii’s volcanic mountains bring mystical energy to our surroundings, filling us with strength, wonder, and gratitude. There is similar spirit felt in South America’s Andes Mountains, delivering vibrancy and power to the wines of Chile and Argentina. I recently traveled to Mendoza, Argentina, taking in this energy in every sip of Malbec I enjoyed. Today is International Malbec Day, a holiday to toast the dynamic complexity and luscious elegance of the Bordeaux variety that found its home in Argentina. To celebrate the day, consider one of these wines available throughout the island or via wine.com.

Founded by the Spanish Governor of Salta, Nicolás Severo de Isasmendi y Echalar in 1831, Bodega Colomé is the oldest working winery in Argentina, sitting high in the Andes Mountains in the Salta region. His daughter Ascensión and her husband, José Benjamín Dávalos, brought the first French pre-phylloxera Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon vines to Colomé in 1854, beginning 170 years of wine production. Grapes planted in 1854, on their rootstocks, at some of the highest elevations in the world, are still used in the production of Colomé Reserva wines. In 2001 Donald Hess of Napa Valley’s Hess Wines purchased the property, continuing the historical legacy of Colomé. Today their organic and biodynamic farming allows the vitality of their Calchaquíes Valley vineyard, ranging from 5000 feet to 9000+ feet above sea level, to be tasted in the fruit. The resulting wines have complex structure, harmoniously integrating tannin and acidity. Colome Estate Malbec ($25) highlights ripe dark cherry, plum, crushed pepper, and licorice.

Before looking to America, Champagne powerhouse, Moet-Hennesesy looked to Argentina to expand their production, developing Chandon Argentina in 1959. When they discovered Mendoza’s Las Compuertas vineyard planted in 1929 with original, ungrafted Malbec, brought to Argentina in the early 19th Century from Bordeaux, they knew he had found a piece of vineyard gold. Recognizing the quality of the ancient vineyard, they established Terrazas de los Andes to showcase the exceptional fruit off the low-yeilding vines. Their Reserve Malbec ($25) is highly aromatic, fruit-forward and flavorful with red berry, baking spice and toasted oak.

When Old World, St. Emilion Grand Cru Bordeaux producer, Cheval Blanc, looked to expand into New World winemaking, they didn’t look to America, Australia, or South Africa they looked to Argentina partnering with Terrazas de los Andes in 1999 creating Cheval des Andes on the historic Las Compuertas vineyard. Producing a single wine, their premium Malbec dominant Bordeaux-style blend ($65) from the 90-year-old vineyard balances juicy, fruit-filled Malbec with complex, concentrated Cabernet Sauvignon delivering well-integrated, silky elegance.

Innovative, expressive and authentic, Viña Cobos is the inspired vision of American winemaker Paul Hobbs who has been crafting complex, finessed Malbec in Uco Valley and Lujan de Cuyo with minimal intervention. The wines of Vina Cobos express an essence of place, as displayed with Felino Malbec. Hand harvested from fruit grown at elevations ranging from 2300-3900 feet above sea level, creating natural freshness in the luscious Malbec fruit. Felino Malbec ($30) layers black cherry, floral violets, and toasted dark chocolate.


Cheval des Andes

When Pierre Lurton visited Argentina in the 1990s, he was intrigued by what he saw. Lurton was the President of Chateau Cheval Blanc, the legendary estate in Bordeaux’s Right Bank, and no stranger to world-class vineyard sites. After he visited Terrazas de Los Andes and tasted the Malbec from the Las Compuertas vineyard at 3600 feet, he was even more fascinated. Malbec had been part of the Bordeaux blend in the 19 th century, but was never replanted after the phylloxera epidemic. Lurton perceived that it had taken root and flourished in Argentina in ways he would not have thought possible.

Lurton’s fascination eventually morphed into Cheval des Andes, the first and only joint venture by Chateau Cheval Blanc outside of Bordeaux. The wine is a vineyard-designated blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. It ages for a total of two years in French oak barrels, and combines the sensibility of St.-Emilion with the earthiness of Argentina.

“For us, Cheval Blanc is a huge heritage that we want to express,” says Lorenzo Pasquini, winemaker for Cheval des Andes, “but our wine also conveys the elegance of Mendoza. It stresses complexity rather than intensity, balance rather than power.”

Originally from Italy, Pasquini is a young winemaker who grew up surrounded by vines. His father had an estate in Maremma, and planted a vineyard there when Lorenzo was a child. He studied viticulture and winemaking in Pisa, received a degree in enology from Bordeaux, and worked at the Mondavi winery in California. “When I went to Cheval des Andes,” he says, “I wanted a new challenge, but I also wanted to express the spirit of Bordeaux.”

Although the blends of the 2012 and 2013 versions of Cheval des Andes ($85) are nearly identical, the two wines are radically different. The 2012 is closed and guarded on the nose, giving up whiffs of black raspberry with coaxing. It’s compact in the mouth as well, but expands in the mid palate with flavors of Damson plums and blackberries against a spicy black pepper edge. It’s restrained, but elegant.

If the 2012 is Bordeaux in style, the 2013 is totally New World—the inevitable result of a much warmer vintage. The exotic nose exudes aromas of soy, Oriental spices, menthol and mint. In the mouth, the wine is concentrated yet seamless, with a profusion of rich black fruit flavors tinged with anise. The texture is lush and mouth-coating, and the long finish yields hints of mint and blackberry jam. It would be fair to say that this is the type of wine consumers are looking for from California and not finding.


Watch the video: Cheval des Andes, Grand Cru of New World (December 2021).