Cheval Blanc, the secret’s in the…

Cheval Blanc. To those unfamiliar with the wines of Bordeaux, it was the fine wine that Miles gloomily drank from a styrofoam cup with a burger in the movie Sideways. To Bordeaux wine afficionados, it’s one of the two wines that stand head and shoulders above the rest in St. Emilion, being designated a Premier Cru Grand Classe (A) wine (the other being Ch. Ausone) in the Classification of St. Emilion in 1955. Having seen “Sideways” and being something of a wine afficionado (I adore French wines although Premier Cru is a whole new world for me) I was beyond excited to be visiting such an iconic vineyard. The first thing you notice about Bordeaux is how boringly flat it all is, they consider a very slight incline to be a hill and an irrigation ditch is most certainly a river in their eyes. It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?   I wasn’t there for the scenery though, I was there for what was under my feet, for terroir is the most important thing to Cheval Blanc and it’s unique mix of gravel, sand and clay in the vineyards, (which covers 37 hectares) the lack of limestone and the fact that the vineyards are at the limit of the demarcation between St. Emilion and Pomerol is their secret. As Pierre Olivier Clouet, Technical Director, told me over lunch, “there are no secrets in the winemaking, all the secrets are in the ground.” What does he mean by that exactly? Pierre Olivier wanted to convey the fact that by the time they pick the grapes off the vine, they will already know how the vintage will turn out. Cheval Blanc are firm believers in vineyard management and 80% of the hard work done to produce their wine is done in the vineyards. Be it quantity control, management of maturity, picking when the grapes have reached their maximum potential, winter pruning-which is very important to guard against too much vigor, and protection against disease...

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Cheval des Andes, lunch with Nicolas Audebert, winemaker

Back in September I was invited to a polo match and wine tasting in Richmond to meet the winemaker for Argentine winery, Cheval des Andes. I went, met their rather dashing French polo-playing winemaker, Nicolas Audebert, watched a polo match and had the pleasure of trying their wines. I never did get a chance to write it up because before I knew it, I was on a plane to Argentina and then another to Mendoza.  That’s how I came to actually be in the Cheval des Andes vineyards at the foot of the Andes Mtns chatting with Nicolas once again about Cheval des Andes’ wines. Nicolas and I had lunch on the terrace of the Cheval lodge, in the middle of the vines, overlooking the polo field and in the shadow of the Andes. The lodge was built in 2008 to welcome invited guests of Cheval des Andes. An open plan, polished tan wood and glass walled edifice, it’s the perfect place for a drink or to wander out to the terrace that faces the polo field to watch a match. Tastefully decorated with antiques, polo memorabilia and food and wine books, it’s a place to easily while away the afternoon, enjoying your glass of wine. Cheval des Andes is  a joint venture between Cheval Blanc and Terrazas los Andes begun in 1998. Terrazas was bought  by Chandon in the 50’s but it’s winery goes back to the early 20th century and they still have vines reaching back to that time. Cheval des Andes was able to take advantage of these old vines and has a parcel of vines that date from the 1920’s. It is from these vines that Cheval takes it’s malbec for it’s blend. The wine is a bordeaux blend style of wine, malbec,  cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot making up the wine. The hope behind the wine is that they produce a wine that is distinctly South American but has the French wine making stamp on it. Nicolas came from...

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