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2007 Cheval des Andes, Mendoza
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Described as a ‘New World Grand Cru’, Cheval des Andes is a high-end wine project that is a collaboration between Terrazas de los Andes and Pierre Lurton of Cheval Blanc. The joint venture was proposed by Pierre Lurton in 1999 when he realized the potential for top quality wines that existed in certain sites in Mendoza. Lurton was eager in connecting again with the grape of Saint Emilion’s past: Malbec. A grape that was decimated by phylloxera in the 1860s from its position as one of the most important varieties in Saint Emilion and Pomerol. It has since been reincarnated at Cheval des Andes in an un-grafted form in Argentina, producing some of the world’s best Malbecs in recent years. Cheval des Andes wines are a blend of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from the high elevation, old vine vineyard "Las Compuertas" near Mendoza.
To Lurton, Cheval des Andes is an “exotic wine with a Bordelais touch”. To Nicolas Audebert, its winemaker and a French ex-pat who used to make Krug and Veuve Clicquot, it’s the “best of two worlds: a combination of the intensity of Argentinian fruit but dressed in a very elegant way with that French style”.
There are over 200 different grape varieties used in modern wine making (from a total of over 1000). Most lesser known blends and varieties are traditional to specific parts of the world.
With its western borderline dominated by the Andes and its 146,000 hectares of vineyards representing 70% of the country’s wine production, Mendoza is Argentina’s biggest and most important wine-growing province.
Mendoza’s vineyards are a haven to Old World varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Tempranillo, Bonarda, Sangiovese, Barbera, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc andChenin Blanc. The province’s signature grape is Malbec.
Mendoza still produces large amounts of inexpensive wine for domestic consumption, as well as grape concentrate, but the sub-region of Luján de Cuyo stands out with some lovely velvety Malbecs, while the cool, gravelly Maipú is best for Cabernet Sauvignon.
The most exciting area in Mendoza for fine whites, however, is the Uco Valley, that has the highest vineyards, up to 1,200 metres above sea level. Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Chenin, Pinot Grigio and Torrontés fare particularly well in its cool climate. Its sub-region of Tupungato produces Argentina’s best Chardonnay.