After visiting the 35-hectare Cheval des Andes estate a few years ago—just outside of Mendoza, Argentina—we have been anticipating their 2014 vintage. This elegant red wine is unlike almost any other, thanks to the year’s odd climate. It’s also the first vintage that Lorenzo Pasquini (Technical Manager and Winemaker at Cheval des Andes) worked on. The result is, Pasquini says, the most unique in the brand’s history.
Regarding the uncanny weather, Pasquini explains that 2014 was chilly yet humid—in fact, it was the coldest year since 2001—which is incredibly uncommon for the region. “And it was rainy during harvest; very unusual in Mendoza—which is the driest viticulture in the world,” he says. This, understandably, made Pasquini nervous. “You’re always nervous. The only time you’re not nervous is when you have the grapes in the tank.”
It’s only after the game that you understand the game
“When you make wine, you think you control everything, but the climate is in control. All you do is react—all year you react to the climate. It’s only after the game that you understand the game.” The effect of the odd weather on most of their grapes was, perhaps surprisingly, not a calamity. While some suffered (the Cabernet), others thrived—particularly the Malbec, which ended up with a dynamic, nuanced and elegant flavor.
Pasquini explains, “There’s so much unknown, and every day you see the wine creating itself. The wine is taking life. The Malbecs were so vibrant and delicate—with aromas of violet, spices, classic but also intense and voluptuous.”
Since the Malbec grapes flourished, it made sense that they dominate the 2014 vintage. But this blend (83% Malbec, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Petit Verdot) is a drastic departure for the brand, whose wines usually incorporate mostly Cabernet. “We had never done this before, but we were really happy with the choice,” Pasquini explains. “I like to say this wine is very poetic, very complex. There’s balance rather than intensity.”
With their parent company Chateau Cheval Blanc’s 300-year history inspiring them, Pasquini’s team experiments with elements of old and new world techniques, but always makes sure that it’s equal parts art and science. He explains the delicate balance, “A wine that is all intuition will lack precision, and wine that’s all science will have no soul.”
Hero image courtesy Cheval des Andes, all others by COOL HUNTING