Yes, while in Argentina we visited the home of the world renowned Malbec wines of Mendoza. No, we didn’t think it was awesome, but we aren’t wine connoisseurs either. Once we promoted that we were visiting Argentina, our friends and family immediately asked, “Are you going to visit Mendoza?” At first, we didn’t think it was going to fit into our route, but after our friend Kevin from home arrived to spend 2 weeks with us, things changed.
The The Mendoza wine region is situated at the foothills of the Andes Mountains on high plains. The consistent weather, mountain water runoff and extreme high and low temperatures provide the ultimate environment for growing vines at an amazingly high altitude. The natural, cold mountain water is irrigated to create a fixed and consistent watering system for the grapes. It rarely rains, so they don’t incur flooding. The extreme temperature change between night day builds a thick skin on the grapes. But, best of all, its cheap and fruity delicious!
The City of Mendoza
The city of Mendoza is not very impressive in that it offers nothing substantially unique. Not every city has to, but we figured due to it’s wine tourism significance, something would stand out. The city is centered around a main plaza and also includes a pedestrian only street that attracts touristic restaurants and bars with plenty of outdoor seating. It’s a very pleasant area to dine in and enjoy the cool foothills weather. As any decent size city, Argentina’s fourth largest, buses parade down the streets and shoppers crowd the sidewalks. Be sure to visit The Parque General San Martín (General San Martín Park) and rent some bikes for the day or stroll the walkway and observe the children practicing crew in the lake.
Within the city we recommend Vines of Mendoza for some of the best wine tasting you will experience. Order a plate of cheese and salty hams to accompany your tasting. Be sure to speak up and ask all the stupid questions if you are newbie, like us. Once the servers sense interest, they will talk wine forever, maybe even handing you a few free samples. If you are loaded with cash, enter their private viewing room where they show you a trailer video on owning your own vineyard. Pretty cool huh? I wouldn’t mind my own personal label.
Mendoza Wine Region
Beyond the city is where most of the wine tasting takes place. Expect to visit wineries in Luján de Cuyo, Maipú, Uco Valley and Godoy Cruz. If you are a budget traveler or backpacker, consider Mr. Hugo Wineries and Bikes in Maipú. There you can rent a bike for the day with a map of local wineries and museums. Take a bus from Mendoza to Maipú, but be sure to bring exact change. It’s a long bike ride and a long day, but you are on your own and can therefore rest when you want. Once back to Mr. Hugo’s, he will have a few pitchers of wine waiting for you, if you can still stand. The region consists of one main road with gravel and dirt roads escaping to the wineries. Visit the Wine Museum first and enjoy a fancy lunch overlooking a vineyard at Tempus winery. My favorite was the Lamb Burger.
Other tours can be arranged by your hostel, hotel or even Vines of Mendoza, and the prices vary depending on the winery and the tour company. There are tours for the rich and famous as well as us.
After many of the wine tours and tastings you have the opportunity to purchase wine. It’s not a problem bringing wine back with you to the United States as long as you aren’t carrying more than 12 bottles. If you pay for a wine tour, ask for that cost to be deducted from your wine purchase. Most are willing to meet this request. Also, ask if the wine is sold in your country and under what label. You may be able to purchase the same bottle under a different name at home.
Adventure travelers also come to Mendoza for the incredible summit of Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Western and Southern Hemisphere. Many outfitters and gear shops exist to meet a climbers needs. Rafting, hiking and horseback riding are all available for the those not ready to climb one of the highest summits in the world. The Andes mountains provide a vast array of opportunities for adventure as well as photography. Jeep tours that climb out of the foothills up onto the mountainsides provide incredible views of the vast Argentina plains.
Other Wine Regions
Argentina is an extremely long country covering a vast area that offers more than just Mendoza for your wine tasting cravings. Consider visiting Northern Argentina, the Salta region, for wineries in Cafayate or even southern Argentina in Patagonia.
I can see how the Mendoza region might attract the wine aficionados, but the small town of Cafayate would have provided enough good wine tasting for Two Backpackers.