- Nick's Import
2017 Cheval des Andes
Cheval des Andes is the brainchild of Pierre Lurton from Cheval Blanc with the dream to follow the original Malbec vines from Bordeaux to Argentina. Malbec was brought to Argentina in the mid-19th century, and having avoided the phylloxera epidemic that swept through Europe, the ungrafted vines here represent a unique opportunity to express Malbec in a way not possible with the grafted vines found elsewhere. With this aim, Chateau Cheval Blanc started a joint venture with Terrazas de Los Andes in 1999 and Cheval des Andes was born. Since then, a predominantly Malbec, Bordeaux-style blend has become the signature of Cheval des Andes. Based around the stunning Malbec vineyard of Las Compuertas, planted in Mendoza in 1929, the 2017 vintage is Cheval des Andes at the top of their game, a vintage that is both more refined and balanced than previous years, yet not lacking for intensity or richness. It's certainly a landmark release in the history of this project.
This is the greatest Cheval des Andes ever. Discrete aromas of blackberries, flowers, stone and licorice. So perfumed. The integration of fruit, tannins and acidity is fantastic. Full-bodied, tight and solid with beautiful depth and integrity. Extremely long and exciting. Complex and compelling with such refinement and length. A blend of 62% malbec and 38% cabernet sauvignon. Available in September 2020. Better after 2024.
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 - Wine Advocate (Sept 2020)
This is the best young vintage of Cheval des Andes that I’ve tasted, demonstrating that this LVMH-owned bodega has finally and fully hit its stride under winemaker Gérald Gabillet. Made from a deftly integrated blend of Malbec and (the highest yet) 38% Cabernet Sauvignon but no Petit Verdot, this stylishly wooded red doesn’t show the heat of the vintage in the slightest. Subtle, balanced and polished, with fine tannins, scented cassis, blackberry and fresh green herb flavours and incredible palate length. World class. 2022-32