Mendoza and Wine Country

The Province of Mendoza can be described as a more sophisticated San Carlos de Bariloche, which is frequented by the younger, hippy crowd. Resting at the base of the Andes mountain range, Mendoza is also a popular adventure destination for hiking (especially Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in the Western world), horseback riding, white-water rafting and skiing. However, the rugged country landscape, which was dubbed as one of the top 10 historic destinations in the world by National Geographic, offers an adventure for visitor´s tastebuds. Mendoza has developed a finely crafted label for itself as The Wine Country.

More and more eyes are watching Mendoza pick the grapes and pop the corks off exquisite wine bottles. It is the largest wine producing area in Latin America that rivals the likes of Napa in the United States and Loire Valley in France. Travelers can spend the day on a bike or in a car moseying along the quiet, charming, green tree-lined streets, which are still bordered by the wide trenches constructed for the irrigation system during its founding. A visit to Av. Bartoleme Mitre will give visitors a chance to see the wide streets and sidewalks in the city, which are bigger than any other in Argentina, as a result of the region rebuilding after a devastating earthquake hit in 1861. During the weekends, artisans sell their wares in the Plaza España and the Avenida San Martín is known to brew up a warm cup of coffee on its sidewalks.

Take a peak into history at The Museo Nacional del Vino,to get an idea of how wine-making first started in the region. Currently producing 70 percent of all the wine made in Argentina, (Argentina is also the fifth largest wine producer in the world), Mendoza province sees little rainfall throughout the year, and remains mostly hot and dry. Such a climate is perfect for visiting, not to mention, excellent growing conditions for red grapes. While Malbec is the true bottle of choice in these parts, Pinot Noir is on the rise as well. It should be known that white wines are not a specialty of Mendoza province.

The two main wine regions close to Mendoza city are Luján de Cuyo, 19 km south of Mendoza and Maipú 16 km from the city. Each area contains a concentrated number of wineries that are open to the public for touring and tastings. Visit quaint family-run wineries and a number of other producers that offer unique tasting opportunities, including artesian olive oil spreads, and dark chocolate liquor-filled truffles. While all winery tours and tastings are free, some of the high-end varieties will cost to taste.

From Mendoza City it’s not difficult to sign-up for a wine tour. In fact, walk along Avenida Las Heras or along the pedestrian mall, Avenida Sarmiento and you’ll come across countless tour operators. Most of these companies offer a one-day tour, with the chance to visit three wineries and then a chocolate artisan as well. Sometimes the tour includes lunch at a winery or famed restaurants in town. Tour guides and vineyard guides typically speak English, as well as Spanish.

If you want to skip Introduction to Wine 101, with the basics of a tour, there are some upper-end tour companies beginning to establish themselves, and they are easily booked ahead of time through the Web. Many of these operators will let you customize your itinerary, but this option will be on the pricier side.

It is also possible to rent a car or hire a taxi (if you want to do some care-free tasting). Taxis for long term rent are called telephone taxis. With wine maps readily available from the tourist office, you can plan your own trip around town and hit certain wineries that a tour doesn’t necessarily visit. This is the best economic option for making sure you reach the popular wineries, without worrying about missing one. Another option is to hop on the bus going either to Maipú or south to Luján de Cuyo and see what you can find.

Make sure you mark you calendars in early March to return to Mendoza for The Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia (The National Grape Harvest Festival), which is filled with activities as well as a beauty pageant.

Practical info

Population: the province is home to more than 1.7 million people

Tel codes: +54 (Argentina) 261 (Mendoza)

Altitude: 760 meters

: Mild and dry, wet summers. During summer months like January, average temperatures are 90 F in the day and cool off at night around 65 F. During winter months like July, average temperatures are 58 F in the day and 36 F at night.