2 Ways to Wine Tour in Mendoza (It's Never Not 5 O'Clock)
Mendoza’s tree lined avenues really turn it up at night.
We walked up and down Av. Aristides our first night in Mendoza. We couldn’t decide where to eat (not unusual) or where to grab a drink (also standard).
There’s so many places to choose from.
Solution? Bar hopping. If there’s one main artery in Mendoza where you don’t need a plan, it’s Av Villanueva Arístides.
If your looking for a different kind of adventure, there’s white water rafting, hiking or horse riding to choose from.
Really though, Mendozas three draw-cards are the winemaking regions of Maipu, Lujan de Cuyo and Uco Valley.
Make space in your bags, leaving with more than one bottle is a given.
Maipu is the budget travellers best bet.
It’s easy to take a bus from your hostel. The drivers on this route know exactly where your headed as soon as you step on the bus.
They’ll drop you somewhere along Av. Urquiza, where there’s dozens of shops renting out bikes. If you’ve been on the gringo trail long enough, there’s a high chance you’ll be headed for Mr Hugo’s.
On everyone’s recommendations, we hired a bike from Mr Hugo, got the run down with a (basic) printed map, then set off for a day of steady sampling.
Our first stop at Bodega Domiciano was the best.
The lady who took us for the tasting explained the pre sniff as a base of comparison for the post swirl sniff. Swirling the wine allows oxygen to unleash its aromas. You can then sniff what you've stirred up, before tasting it to see if they match.
Voila, we were wine tasting.
Armed with our map, we pedalled to our next choice. It was stinking hot that day. The road was busy. The good thing about Maipu is that if you need a break from the vino, there’s ample opportunity for olive tasting, so you can stock up on breads and dips in order to pedal safe.
The only hiccup (pun intended) is that on Saturdays, some of the bodegas are shut.
For kiwi’s, that’s an unfathomable idea. When we found ourselves cycling past more than a few closed gates, our answer was to take an organised tour to Lujan de Cuyo the next day.
Lujan de Cuyo
Lujan de Cuyo is the oldest wine making region in Mendoza. There’s a lot of history and tradition in what’s known as the land of the Malbec.
As part of the Mendoza Rivers high region (it’s about 40 minutes from the city), vineyards plant mostly reds in the soil at an altitude of 2,640-3,630 feet.
If it’s in your budget, an organised tour’s worth it. I’d recommend going with Trout and Wine Tours.
Our first stop was at Kaiken, a rustic bodega whose name comes from Caiquen, a wild goose from Patagonia.
Although Caiquen fly across the Andes between Argentina and Chile, the geese at Kaiken looked more comfortable taking in the view of the Andes while cruising the vineyards.
The tasting was held inside, infront of a large window that looked out over the Andes. After our tasting at Domicianos, we sampled the Malbecs and Cabernet Sauvignons with confidence.
The fine dividing line between amateurs and connoisseurs though, is knowing how to spit.
We’d yet to master this.
Neither had the guy next to us. He didn’t waste a drop, an action we noted as much as the elegant fragrance of the reds.
We became fast friends for the rest of the tour after that.
Our second tasting was at Bodega Budeguer. A winery with a more modern touch.
Contemporary art lined the walls and a huge sculpture of Pacha mamma stood in one of the main corners.
Our guide led us down an enclosed walkway where on one side, bottles of Tucuman were displayed in neat rows. On the other, clear glass looked down onto large, stainless steel tanks.
We left tipsy from a generous tasting, ready for our five course lunch.
The elegant tables at Osadia were lined with glasses ready for a wide sampling of Susana Balbo Wines. The gourmet food was paired with tastings so superb, we left sporting jolly red toothed smiles two hours later.
At Alta Vista, we had a photoshoot in an 110 year old underground cellar.
We sampled more wine in the tasting room that was set in one of the original tanks, before our patient driver took us to the last bodega of the day, Pulenta Estate.
There we sampled Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon in a clean, minimalist room, before running out into the vineyard for a final photo shoot.
It was only 5.30pm when we got back to Mendoza. In Argentina, that’s pretty much lunch time.
With our new mate from NYC, we hit the bars along Av. Aristides.
We lasted well into the morning hours, a solid effort for a couple of lightweights out tasting wine since 10am.
The third region in Mendoza is Uco Valley. It’s the new kid on the architectural block. Some say it’s the future of Argentinan wine. It’ll be the future of ours when we’re back in Mendoza.
The budget dictated it was time to move on from a perpetual 5 o’clock.
Our loaded backpacks clinked all the way to Buenos Aires.