I first met Nicolas Audebert, winemaker for the Argentinean cuvée Cheval des Andes, five years ago at Los Chulengos, a 15,000-acre private ranch in the Andes foothills. We had come to ride horses and indulge in an asado—what the Argentines call their justly famous barbecues. Audebert showed up in riding boots and head-to-toe tanned leather alongside his leggy wife, Melissende. In tow were Blanche and Constantin, their two kids at the time (now they have four). Frankly, the Audeberts looked like something out of a Ralph Lauren ad.
Since then, I’ve met and tasted with Audebert—who was born in 1975 in Toulon—on a number of occasions. Last summer, it was on a friend’s rooftop space in New York City, where Audebert showed his wine to the press and trade in a casual setting. In addition, we have gotten together in Los Angeles, on the terrace of West Hollywood’s Sunset Tower Hotel, as well as on the polo field at Cheval des Andes, where Audebert regularly participates in competitive matches. Then, this past December, while I was in Mendoza visiting wineries, Audebert topped his coolest self by scoring VIP passes to see the legendary British D.J. Paul Oakenfold, a show that started at 3:45 am and went until sunrise.
Audebert, whose father worked for the French government and moved his family to posts throughout the Caribbean and East Africa, is a fun-loving guy. But he’s also a highly talented winemaker with a wide array of interests. As much at home at a nightclub in Manhattan as he is in the wine cellar in Mendoza, Audebert is enjoying the good life while crafting a high-quality product meant for others who relish the same lifestyle.
A 1999 graduate of the viticulture and enology school at the Ecole Nationale Superieure Agronomique de Montpellier, Audebert’s first job in wine was with Terrazas de Los Andes in Argentina, a government-sponsored assignment that got him out of doing a mandatory stint in the French military. Later he made Champagne at Moët & Chandon, Krug and Veuve Clicquot. Since 2006, he has been the chief winemaker for Cheval des Andes, a single-wine joint venture between Terrazas and Château Cheval Blanc in St.-Émilion, Bordeaux. Among Argentinean reds, Cheval des Andes is a perennial high scorer known for its refined intensity and balance.
While on a whirlwind trip to the United States in February, Audebert and I sat down at a café in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood to discuss his upbringing, winemaking background, personal interests and family. I also asked him about some of his favorite things in life.
Nicolas Audebert’s 15 Favorite Things
City: Hong Kong for eating; New York for the nightlife; Aix-en-Provence for everything else.
Traditional French food: Duck confit
Electronic gadget: iPad
Band or musician: Bob Marley
Wine: Cheval Blanc 1947
Champagne: Krug Clos du Mesnil
Cocktail: Bloody Mary
Sport: Polo to play; rugby to watch
American expression: Douchebag…I love how that word is used. Or awesome, which is so American.
Hotel/resort: Island Camp at Lake Baringo in Rift Valley, Kenya
Vacation alone with your wife: Taking my father’s sailboat and exploring the islands off the Provençal coast; the best are Porquerolles and Corsica.
Business trip: About seven years ago with Krug, we did the Krug Odyssey. We started with tastings at a silk magnate’s villa on Lake Como, and then flew by sea plane to Venice, where we landed in the main lagoon. We then took over a private palazzo on the Grand Canal, where we hosted two more days of tastings.
Book: Cyrano de Bergerac (originally written as a play by Edmond Rostand). I love the way he was both a gentleman and sort of crazy; he plays both sides, but always with elegance.
Horse: As a child, Mila was my favorite horse; but my father sold her to a neighbor, who then trained her to become a champion long-racer. I knew at age 12 she was a great horse.
Argentine Tradition: Sipping and sharing maté (akin to herbal tea) with others.