Bottle Rocket: 2007 Cheval des Andes, tasting with winemaker Nicolas Audebert
“It’s not important who the winemaker is,” says Nicolas Audebert, the winemaker of Cheval des Andes, the prized Cabernet-based blend from Mendoza, Argentina. Audebert and I were discussing his blending philosophy over a glass or two of his excellent 2007 Cheval des Andes recently when he stunned me with his answer.
“I spent a lot of time at Krug, where they taught me to blend properly. That’s where I learned that wine is not about the winemaker. It’s all about the the grapes, not the name of the person who made the wine. The French don’t care about who the winemaker was.”
Audebert was in town for Moet Hennessey’s 2012 winemaker tour, a multi-city roadshow that took a handful of top winemakers from LVMH’s portfolio of wineries across the U.S.
At Cheval des Andes, a 50-hectar joint venture between Bordeaux’s Chateau Cheval Blanc and Argentina’s Terrazas los Andes, produces only one wine: an enthralling Bordeaux-style blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Many of the winery’s ungrafted vines date back to 1929, which lends the fruit a thrilling intensity of color and flavor.
“When you have the best grapes, as we do, the winemaker only has to fine-tune what ends up in the bottle,” Audebert continued. “The idea is to make an Argentine wine with French elegance, a wine that’s rich and fresh, so we aim for ripe fruit, soft tannins.”
While the exact varietal blend changes each year, Audebert says “Cabernet is the backbone and Malbec is the meat. The others provide the spice.” Most years, Cabernet predominates; in others, it’s Malbec, as with the 2006 vintage when, says Audebert, Cabernet Sauvignon only accounted for 35% of the blend.
“It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. You finish the puzzle and it looks like a perfect picture. But if just one of the 1000 pieces is missing, you’ll notice that it’s missing. This is what blending a wine is like.”
These are big, beefy wines, Argentinian “Grand Crus.” They’re wines to fall in love with.
What are Audebert’s personal Cheval des Andes cellaring recommendations?
2006-wait at least ten years
2007-wait at least ten years
2008-“don’t open it for at least 20 years; it has great acidity, fresh and ripe and a bit of minerality
2009-I will probably release this before the 2008.”
You can buy Cheval des Andes at Sigel’s stores in Dallas.