More than Malbec

By | Category: Travel destinations


Malbec has put Mendoza on the map, but there’s more to this northern region of Argentina than great grapes writes Kaye Holland

Nestled against the Andes, the 110,000 strong city of Mendoza is famed for its Malbec – Argentina’s signature grape which is responsible for the lush, dark red wines we all know and love. Malbec has become the darling of wine critics and drinkers because it is used to make star wines which costs a fraction of what they do back home in Blighty.

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Even if you aren’t an oenophile, a visit to one of the region’s 700 stunning wineries  – all are set against a backdrop of the snow capped Andes  – is a Mendoza must do. The cheapest tours are the bike and wine ones offered by companies such as Bikes & Wine and Mr Hugo. Both boast an enviable reputation (although do check your brakes and wheels are in good working gear before setting off) but if you’d rather focus solely on sipping and not cycling, I’d recommend splurging on a wine tour with an outfit like Ampora or Trout & Wine. I took a tour with the latter and, while they are pricier than the bog standard bike and wine packages, life is too short, you work too hard and you deserve it right?

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Your guide will pick you up around 8am and take you and your small group to approximately five wineries where you’ll get to sample some of the area’s most outstanding wines. Sounds touristy? Perhaps but forget about not being a tourist, and do the things that will make you happy, because I guarantee this: you’re in for a great day of of wine, food and fun. I defy even the most tightly wound traveller not to feel the tensions slip away while on a Mendoza wine tour.

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Your tour will either take you to the classic Lujan de Cuyo region or the high-altitude growing region of Valle de Uco, a new frontier in Argentine wine making. I opted for the former and got to visit Mendel, an old historical winery that’s run by one of Argentina’s most famous winemakers Roberto de la Motta, Renacer, Club Tapiz (a wine lodge, winery and olive house) and last but by no means least Luigi Bosca, an old and elegant winery owned by the Royal family of Argentine wine: the Arizu. After a tour of each venue by the enthusiastic wine makers, we sat down to drink from five glasses. Little wonder then that by the end of the tour, our group were all more than a tad tipsy and had become firm friends – even we could barely remember each others names… And with every drink comes the jaw dropping views of the Andes. As I raised another glass of Malbec to my lips I decided that time spent sipping wine – one of life’s few true pleasures – was the perfect tonic after a five weeks in fast paced Buenos Aires. Yet while Malbec receives most of the world’s attention, Mendoza’s white wines – made from the Torrents grape variety – are remarkably fine too. So much so that I felt a strong urge to buy a few bottles during my sojourn in Mendoza to add to the bottle that Trout and Wine had packed us all off with.

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If you’re determined to return home as an oenophile, in Mendoza proper make a beeline for Calle Belgrano where you can sample flights of wine at The Vines Tasting Room, owned by Michael Evans and Pablo Gimenez Riil – an American wine lover and Mendoza lawyer whose family has made great wine for generations. The enthusiasm of the multilingual servers (tip: ask for Andre) is infectious and if, like me, you opt for the Recuerdo experience, you’ll leave with an overview overview of the varietals from the region. Fancy creating your own vine? At The Tasting Room’s sister property, The Vines Resort & Spa, guests get to work side by side with work renowned consulting wine maker Santiago Archival to make their own custom batch wine.

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Yet while wine is always a great reason to travel, there’s more to the Mendoza region than Malbec. For anyone who loves the great outdoors, few places can match what the area has to offer. The countryside is so beautiful it will make you cry and adventure  – think rafting, mountain biking, kayaking rock climbing and paragliding – is around every corner. Too active? The surrounding region is also the perfect placed to hike, cycle or simply enjoy the quiet of elevated territory.

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Furthermore the city itself has tonnes of charm being both compact and chock full of al fresco cafes and restaurants (well all that drinking will make you hungry), picturesque plazas and a plethora of verdant parks. The town’s easy going grace marks it as special so I wasn’t surprised to discover that many Mendoza inhabitants have returned home after escaping abroad for a few formative years: it’s a town so full of character, chances are you’ll want to move here…

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However I had a bus ticket booked for Valparaíso, Chile, but while I left Mendoza with my head ringing, my heart was singing. Bottom line? Whether you’re a wine connoisseur, casual wine enthusiast or an adrenaline junkie, Mendoza will steal your heart…

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