“a journey to the roots of Bordeaux.” Pierre Lurton
In 1999, Château Cheval Blanc collaborated with Terrazas de Los Andes to create Cheval des Andes – a Bordeaux blend from the cool climate slopes of the Andes mountains. The estate comprises 36 hectares of vines from two vineyards: Las Compuertas in Luján de Cuyo and La Consulta in Uco, both ideally suited to the cultivation of un-grafted old vine Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. Cheval Blanc maintains that the original right bank Bordeaux blend would have been predominantly Malbec instead of Merlot. Pierre Lurton suggests Cheval des Andes is therefore “a journey to the roots of Bordeaux”. Malbec provides opulence, density and a plushness to the tannins, while Cabernet Sauvignon counters this, bringing restraint, structure, and tension. They also add judicious amounts Petit Verdot for fragrant aromatic notes, cuttings of which came from Chateau Margaux.
This year’s incarnation of Cheval des Andes demonstrates plenty of pedigree. It displays powerful and brooding flavours, packed with smoked meats and dark berries, cherry and plum. Whilst there is evidently a core of opulent, sweet fruit, this is tempered by a tannic spine and subtle violet, graphite and white pepper nuance, which suggests this will age gracefully for many years. “The 2020 Cheval des Andes was harvested from the last of February for the first time ever. It was Gabillet's second vintage at Cheval des Andes, and that year, he had to start without waiting for Pierre Olivier Clouet and Pierre Lurton from Cheval Blanc; when they arrived, they had finished picking the Malbec, which surprisingly was fresher in Las Compuertas (because of the higher percentage of clay?) than in Altamira (where the vines suffered more stress), saving the freshness. They now harvest using cold trucks (for the first time), and they also started earlier in the morning (six in the morning, impossible earlier in Mendoza...), which he reckons was very good for the precision of the wine. They used 40% 225-liter barrels, 40% 400-liter oak barrels and 20% 2,500-liter foudres, half of them new and with an élevage of 15 months on average, depending on the lots and varieties from 12 to 18 months. The final blend was 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot, which makes a comeback as it was not used since 2016. The key was to finish the fermentation of the Petit Verdot without skins, and that way, they have been able to use it in the blends of 2021, 2022 and 2023 in small but increasing percentages. This is slightly riper than 2019, with a little more alcohol (14.5%) and with very good structural tannins but saving the freshness, and it has the spicy side from the Petit Verdot (Gabillet talks about white pepper). The wine has the ultra sleek and polished texture and the elegance and the balance that is the signature here; the wine is very clean and precise. I see very good regularity across the three vintages I tasted next to each other—this 2020 and the 2018 and 2019. Overall, this is a triumph over the adverse conditions of the vintage. They produced their usual 100,000 bottles (since 2018), as they are renewing their vineyards and want to keep the volume stable. They produce this volume from the 36 productive hectares they have in Las Compuertas and Altamira. 98/100”** Luis Gutiérrez, The Wine Advocate**
“Ripe, baked dark cherries with spices and some violets. Hints of graphite, cocoa powder, incense and black pepper. Dried rose petals. A slightly fuller Cheval des Andes with tense, silky tannins and a lingering, generous finish. Ripe, but still has lots of restraint and precision. 49% malbec, 49% cabernet sauvignon with a 2% petit verdot. 24% of the malbec comes from Altamira and all the rest of the fruit come from Las Compuertas. Drink or hold. 97/100” James Suckling, JamesSuckling.com
“Crushed raspberry plum in colour, vibrant and concentrated, juicy and balanced, has precision and succulence and carefully thought out delivery of tannins, grilled spices, nutmeg, liqourice, bilberry, damson and pomegrante. Great stuff, playing at a high level. Gérald Gabillet winemaker and director, LVMH owners. 97/100” Jane Anson, JaneAnson.com
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