Cheval des Andes, a joint venture in Argentina’s Mendoza wine district between Saint Emilion’s Chateau Cheval Blanc and Terrazas de los Andes, has been producing wines for the past two decades which have become increasingly Malbec-driven to reflect the spirit of the high-altitude terroir.
Photo: Guy Collins
Pierre Lurton, director of the team that runs both Cheval Blanc and Chateau d’Yquem in Sauternes as well as the Cheval des Andes project, told a tasting at Vinexpo Hong Kong that the blend had progressed from one structured around Bordeaux staple Cabernet Sauvignon to one where Malbec predominates. The core of the estate is Terrazas’s Las Compuertas vineyard in the Andes foothills.
``I started off with more Cabernet Sauvignon, for the backbone,’’ Lurton said in a joint presentation with Cheval des Andes winemaker Lorenzo Pasquini May 31. ``Now, with the 2017 vintage, there is more Malbec. I am very impressed with the Las Compuertas Malbec.’’
The 2008 vintage, the oldest in the tasting, was a blend of 50 percent Malbec, 45 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 5 percent Petit Verdot. By 2015, the most recent wine presented, the proportion of Malbec had risen to 72 percent while the Cabernet accounted for just 28 percent.
Pasquini said Cheval des Andes aims to control all stages of the wine-making process, using only its own grapes and paying close attention to details of viticulture. The estate is changing its irrigation system from one of flood irrigation, where water is released through channels, to high-volume drip irrigation, taking advantage of the water-retentive characteristics of the soil.
``Our objective is to pick the grapes early, al dente’’ Pasquini said. ``When the berries are crunchy, the skins are still tight and the acidity is high. This change in irrigation is a big focus.’’
The vineyard dates back to at least 1929 and the Malbec comes from vines that are 70 to 75 years old. Lurton noted the ``violet’’ touch on the wine and described it as ``very subtle and very elegant.’’
Cheval des Andes bottles from recent vintages retail in the U.K. from about 40 pounds ($53) excluding sales tax upwards, according to winesearcher.com.