It was in March 2008 that I visited Cheval des Andes, a vineyard owned by LVMH in a joint venture with Pierre Lurton of Cheval Blanc, based in the Las Compuertas district of Luján de Cuyo in Argentina’s Mendoza wine region. So, some five years later, I caught up with winemaker Nicolas Audebert (pictured above, with horse) in London for a vertical tasting of the property’s wines.
The vineyard was planted in the 1920s. There are 50 hectares of vines, and Nicolas does some 80 vinifications (he used to do just 15). Half the wine is used for the Cheval wine (the only wine that is made under this label), while the remainder is used for Terrazas, LVMH’s other property in the region. Nicolas has now been here for 7 years in total: he was here for two years at the beginning, and then spent five years at Krug. Then he came back.
‘We will take the time to make the most outstanding wine we can,’ says Nicolas. ‘We are not making wines for competitions.’
He doesn’t think, though, that you need to compromise drinkability to make an ageworthy wine. ‘A great wine has to be nice now and nice in the future. We are building a wine thinking of this, helping to get freshness and elegance.’ As to the blend of French and Argentine traditions, ‘we want to be argentine but we want to be French at the same time.’
These wines are ripe and rich, as you’d expect from Argentina. But they do have complexity and interest, too. For me, the 2008 is the best of the bunch, but even the 1999 is holding up well, and ideal for current drinking.
Cheval des Andes 1999 Mendoza, Argentina
The first vintage, with 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Malbec. Warm and spicy with a hint of mint, as well as sweet, lush blackberry fruit. Very smooth with notes of cedar and minerals. Lovely texture and soft, silky tannins. Sweetness, ripeness and balance together in one wine. 94/100
Cheval dos Andes 2003 Mendoza, Argentina
Warm and smooth textured. Spicy and smooth grained with notes of chalk and gravel. Silky texture and nice weight and richness. Seductive but still in balance. 93/100
Cheval dos Andes 2006 Mendoza, Argentina
A hot vintage. Ripe and sweet with a smooth palate and soft-textured lush black fruits. A very ripe style with a soft, rich personality. 92/100
Cheval dos Andes 2007 Mendoza, Argentina
Taut, fresh black cherry and plum fruit nose with some spiciness. Quite backward. The palate has savoury, spicy undercurrents to the blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. Taut structure and some fresher mineral notes. 93/100
Cheval dos Andes 2008 Mendoza, Argentina
A fairly tough year with a small harvest. Sleek red and black fruits: cherries, plums, spice and some blackcurrant notes. Ripe and pure with great definition, nicely integrated oak and lovely fruit presence. 94/100