One day we will stop referencing Sideways. Today is not one of them. Eleven years on, the film continues to kill Merlot. Although Miles railed against the grape, his prized bottle turned out to be an iconic Merlot: Cheval Blanc, 1er Grand Cru classé A, Saint-Émilion 1961…that he drank with fast food:
Merlot sales plummeted. Our Zeitgeist absorbed and proliferated the grape hate. In stepped Malbec: another soft, ripe, plummy red with recession-ready prices from Argentina.
But before all this, in 1999, Cheval Blanc may have seen the writing on the wall. They partnered with Terrazas de los Andes and, in the great footsteps of Pitt and Jolie’s “Brangelina” and Affleck and J Lo/Garner’s “Bennifer”, decided to create “Cheval des Andes”.
Along with famed Chateau Yquem, it is the only other wine Pierre Lurton, Director of Cheval Blanc, puts his name on. It comes from a vineyard in the high desert of Lujàn de Cuyo (Nothern Mendoza) with vines over 80 years old of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.
Today we open 2009’s 60% Malbec 40% Cabernet Sauvignon blend (although a smidge of Petit Verdot got in). It saw two years of graduated barrel aging and another eighteen months in bottle. This bottle in particular is Lot 00053.
APPEARANCE: looks inky black with barely a clear ruby rim and sticky thick legs.
AROMAS: smell pronounced and of treacle, black strap molasses, prune puree, black cherry syrup, tobacco, and flint.
PALATE: feels dry, with balancing medium acidity, high, seedy but thick tannins, a thick, viscous medium plus alcohol at 14.5%. All this makes for a lush but gripping full body.
FLAVORS: proclaim themselves with dust, heat, and rippling tannic black pomegranate juice, prunes, flint, charred tobacco, all well integrated if a bit of a tight fist. The length is long.
CONCLUSIONS: Cheval des Andes 2009 is outstanding (5 of 5) wine, but way too young. Immediate decanting does little. I re-tasted it after three days of being open, and finally all its tempestuous youth, alcohol, and tannin had relaxed into a luxurious yet still intensely rich red. Another five years could help it. Regardless, this Cheval could slice a steak in half and you will need something to quell the tannins.
This wine will demolish any others at your Halloween party. So if you wish to flirt with greatness, be warned, be patient, or bring a cheeseburger. Since most of us will never enjoy a $2,000 bottle of ’61 Cheval Blanc, Cheval des Andes offers a hem of that illustrious robe.
Sounds wild and amazing.
Has anyone taken on the concept that his eating fried (possibly rancid cooking oil) onion rings, could have influenced his palate’s response to Malbec?
The film’s a bit inconsistent, first he hates Merlot, but then his favorite wine is a Merlot…