Mendoza - the Argentine Wine Country

>> Monday, April 8, 2013

Now that Calgary is on the cusp of spring (we’ve actually been getting some pretty decent weather the last couple weeks). It’s got me thinking of the countries down South that are beginning their fall, specifically Argentina and Chile, which I was lucky enough to visit at the end of last year. Autumn means grape harvest and wine production time for those countries and while we were in Mendoza, Argentina last year we had the opportunity to visit some beautiful wineries.

Once you land in Mendoza, the first couple things you see is all the wine barrels they display in the airport and along the side of the road welcoming you to their wine country. The city of Mendoza itself isn’t overly large, but the greater Mendoza area, which includes the Maipu region, making it the fourth largest metropolitan area in the country and they produce 70% of the country’s wine.

The city is made up of four different plazas situated around the centre Plaza Independencia, which is also the largest. To the west there is Plaza San Martin and Plaza San Lorenzo. To the east is Plaza Italia and Plaza Chile. Each plaza is designed differently to represent its name. It was wonder roaming around the city and admiring the differences of each.

For most travelers that come to Mendoza (I’m talking 99.9% if not more), it’s the wine that draws them in. You can easily sign on to wine tours through the hotel or hostel you’re staying at. They run daily and the main regions they go to include the Maipu and Lujan regions. The tour we took drove us to the Maipu area where we visited a large commercial winery and contrasted it with a small family owned winery. Both specializing in Malbec grapes but also producing other varietals. It was amazing being able to compare the large vats of wine in the commercial winery to the small hand powered machinery used in the smaller winery. After the tour of the winery we were always provided a tasting to showcase the wines produced at each. It was hard to only buy a couple bottles since they were all so delicious, plus the price couldn’t be beat!

As part of the winery tours you also have the option to visit an olive oil factory, which we did. It was eye opening the amount of olives required to get just one bottle of olive oil. At the sampling, we were treated to both flavoured oils and oils that weren’t fully filtered giving the olive oil a cloudy appearance. When you taste that particular type of olive oil, the unfiltered oil provides a lingering grassy taste, which can’t be found at your typical grocery stores. It was definitely my favorite, although the garlic olive oil was hard to beat as well.

There are many different resorts located in the maipu region where you can stay and enjoy everything the wineries have to offer including spa getaways and amazing dinners. But if you’re not there just for the wine, Mendoza is also located just east of the amazing Andes Mountains. We decided to join another day tour which took us trekking through the Andes and we also go to repel down beside a 40 ft waterfall. Although the Andes Mountains aren’t quite the same as the Rockies (they’ll forever be my favourite mountain range), it was nice to compare and contrast the differences between the two. After the trek we decided to stay mid mountain and treat ourselves to a lovely Argentinean lunch along with a bottle of Malbec (of course).

Talking about food, there area some amazing restaurants that we were able to visit and during the summer months in Mendoza the main street to people watch while enjoying a bite is definitely Ave Sarmiento. Argentineans enjoy their offal (innards) as much as their meats so I highly recommend it when you’re in the country. At Patrona, they offer a mixed grill featuring beef, pork, chicken and offal meats. It’s a perfect size to share amongst two people.

A famous wine bar in Mendoza is The Vines of Mendoza, where you’re able to mix and match different wine varietals and possibly even create your own wine. At the Park Hyatt, they do a feature of food and wine pairings each week where you get unlimited tapas once you pay for the wine tasting. It’s a great way to relax while comparing and contrasting the different wines they have featured with each course. The hotel and restaurant itself was amazing and shouldn’t be missed.

One thing I am missing the most right now is the amazing wines that are being produced in the countries south of the equator. Now that we’re fully headed in to spring and soon enough summer (fingers crossed), the South American countries are in full wine production mode. It’ll only be a matter of time before the bottles are shipped north so we too can enjoy their harvest. However, there will always be those special wineries that do not ship their wines up north and those are the ones that I will truly miss. I guess it just means it’s time to book another wine vacation…right?


Madelene Swinny April 12, 2013 at 2:58 AM  

It would be a dream come true when I get to visit this country. I'm a wine lover. And it looks like a great place to spend holidays.

Michael Meisner April 24, 2013 at 5:48 PM  

Did you find any varietals other than Malbec being produced there? I'd be interested to know what other Bordeaux type grapes they grow, since Malbec is just one of five...

Also, did you try any Torrontes? I had the Recuerdo Torrontes recently and must say I was blown away by the amazing nose; one of the most aromatic whites I have tried. recuerdo torrontes and malbec... check it out if you have a moment. I'm sure there are others who make this varietal but I hardly see it...

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