Wine Reviews

2010 Wish List #2: Cheval des Andes, Argentina

When the great St-Emilon Chateau, Cheval Blanc makes a wine in Argentina, is it the vinous equivalent to buying a “Gucci handbag” in Shanghai?

Nothing fake (nor cheap) about Cheval des Andes.

Cheval des Andes is created from a strong partnership between Pierre Lurton (Cheval Blanc and Chateau d’Yquem) and Roberto de la Mota (Terrazas De Los Andes, Mendoza) combining Bordeaux expertise and the cool, elevated vineyards of Mendoza in Argentina.

Cheval Blanc partnering with a winery in Mendoza marks a turning point in the debate about New World vs Old World and the whole concept of terroir in wine winemaking. Cheval Blanc is not the only big-name from Bordeaux to lend its expertise in Argentina – there’s also the Rothschilds and flying visits from Michel Rolland – but Cheval Blanc, with its high price and exclusivity, is the one that really opens up the debate about terroir.

I can’t help but wonder how much influence can Cheval Blanc have on the style of wine made in Argentina if it is not on its hallowed Saint-Emillion soil?

In one way, it can be argued this is more authentic Bordeaux than actual Bordeaux: you are tasting a style of Bordeaux that could still exist if it wasn’t for Phylloxera devastating Europe’s vineyards in the 1860s. Before 1860s, Malbec was part of the toolbox of grapes as much as any other of the noble varieties. But Malbec never recovered in Bordeaux after Phylloxera. In Mendoza, Malbec is again blended with Cabernet Sauvignon creating almost a glimpse of what may have been in Bordeaux.

Cheval des Andes has been an instant hit with serious wine buyers since it’s first release in 2001. Is it a little bit of classic Bordeaux supercharged with Argentine horsepower? Cheval des Andes is firmly on my wish list for 2010.