Careful: Argentina wine can spoil you for life.
It’s not just the wines – though Argentinian wines are very, very good – it’s the landscape.
Mendoza is a desert, but you’d probably never guess it.
Thanks to Andean snow melt, it remains lush and green year round, while fountains and irrigation canals run through the city center. Sycamore trees line the main square, which provide shade from the hot sun.
But what’s more striking is the view. The Andes mountain range looms over endless miles of vineyards, while rolling hills turn amber and crimson during autumn months.
It’s gorgeous! But back to the wines…
Argentina Wine Country
Mendoza is the largest and most important wine-producing region in Argentina.
In fact, it’s recognized as one of the eight wine world capitals along with Napa Valley, Porto, Rioja, Bordeauz, Florence, Cape Town, and Melbourne.
The Malbec grape – used predominantly in Bordeaux style blends – is truly world-class. Many Argentinian wines use just Malbec, which produces dark, red wine with cherry or plum overtones.
Another popular wine in Mendoza is Bonarda, a red grape which – unlike Malbec – produces fruit forward wines with low levels of tannin.
For a white wine, Argentina is known for it’s Torrontés. It’s nicknamed “The Liar” because the nose of the wine smells sweet like Muscat or Gewurtztraminer, but the taste is very dry and smooth.
But don’t worry…
Mendoza also produces more traditional wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay.
Trout and Wine Tours
Trout and Wine Tours is a great option for a guided tour of Argentina’s most premier wine region – Lujan de Cuyo – conveniently located just 30 minutes south of Mendoza City.
And – lucky for us – we got to take a tour of Lujan de Cuyo with Vicky – Trout and Wine Tour’s best tour guide!
What you get with a one-day tour:
- Tour from 9am to 5:30pm (under $200 per person) with a knowledgeable English/Spanish speaking guide.
- Winery tours and tastings at four premium wineries.
- 4-course lunch that’s delicious!
- Transport pick up and drop off directly to your hotel in a minivan with AC.
- Complimentary Wine Republic Magazine, the Vines of Mendoza tasting vouchers and a bottle of wine!
- Small group setting. No more than eight persons are booked on one tour.
Wineries vary from tour to tour, but here’s an overview of the four wineries we visited:
1. Clos de Chacras
Clos de Chacras is a small boutique winery founded by the Gargantini family who once owned Giol – the largest winery in the world in the 1920s. The cellars and property were recently restored into a comfortable and casual setting. The tasting was seated in the restaurant and included:
- Cavas de Crianza Malbec 2009
- Clos de Chacras Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
- Gran Estirpe Blend 2008 – My personal favorite of the day!
2. Bodega Viña Cobos
Bodega Viña Cobos is a modern winery in Mendoza leading the way for premium wine production in Argentina with the help of co-owner Paul Hobbs - an American winemaker credited with making one of the most complex Malbecs – the 99-point Bramare.
Bodega Viña Cobos offers four collections of wine including:
- Bramare Vineyard Designation
- Marchiori Malbec
- Marchiori Cabernet Sauvignon
- Marchiori Chardonnay
- Rebon Malbec
- Bramare Appellation
- Luján de Cuyo Malbec
- Luján de Cuyo Cabernet Sauv.
- Valle de Uco Malbec
- Cabernet Sauvignon
Club Tapiz is Mendoza’s only vineyard estancia (ranch) with a 19th century lodge, winery and olive house. After an olive oil tour and tasting, we retreated to the restaurant for a 4-course lunch with a wine paring.
Lunch included empanadas, carrot soup, steak and baked potato and desert. And the wine paring was lovely with Malbec, Torrontés, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Pinot Noir served.
4. Alta Vista
Alta Vista is a traditional winery that was recently renovated by a French wine family. The winery is intermixed with Olive trees and has a lovely view of the Andes mountains. The tasting included:
- Alta Vista Terrois Selection Malbec 2008
- Alta Vista Premium Bonarda 2010
- Alta Vista Premium Torrontes 2011
A special thanks goes to Vicky and Charlie (owner of Trout and Wine) for the wonderful experience.
Other Wine Tour Options in Mendoza
There are over 700 wineries in Mendoza all waiting to be explored.
Here are several tips to help you make the most of your time:
- For self-guided tours, schedule the day at three to four bodegas (wineries). Try to select bodegas which are different in style and size. Most wineries require an appointment only offered during the week – so plan accordingly.
- Mendoza has dry desert air and strong sun. However, temperatures drop significantly inside many bodegas. Be sure to pack a sweater or jacket, even if it’s hot outside.
- Cars are available for rent, though bicycle tours are also available and get rave reviews!
- Bring cash. Many bodegas only accept cash.
Things to Eat (and Drink) in Mendoza
Asado: Grilled meat, black blood sausage and chorizo are popular and delicious. Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec wines pair nicely.
Empanadas: Pastries which are either baked or fried and stuffed with meat and cheese. Visit an empanaderia - similar to a pizzeria – and try several different varieties including ham and cheese (Chardonnay or Malbec), corn (Torrontes), and roquefort (Chardonnay).
Panqueques de dulce de leche: Like sweets? Then try these creamy, sweet pancakes. Pairs deliciously with sparkling wine.
When To Go
Argentina wine can be tasted year round, but Spring (September – November) and fall (March – May) are both excellent times to visit Mendoza; both are pleasantly warm during the day, and during fall the vineyards turn a beautiful copper and amber. Summer (December – February) is generally too hot for most visitors, though AC is available.
Mendoza is warm with low humidity. Temperatures range from 43 – 68°F (6-20°C) in the spring and 58 – 74°F (14-23°C) in the fall (March is hotter and wetter than April or May).
Getting There & Around
Daily flights into Mendoza (5 miles from downtown) arrive from Buenos Aires and Santiago, Chile. Both cities serve as major international hubs.
For wine tasting in Mendoza, you’ll need to either rent a car (with or without a driver) or sign for a group tour.
- Guided wine tour: $200
- Mid-range accommodations: $50-100
- Meals: $10-15
- Bottle of beer: $2
- Try Malbec. This Hungarian grape is popular in French Bordeaux blends, but really comes into its own here in Mendoza.
- Check your import laws before buying wine. Each country is different, and some significantly drive up costs. In the U.S., the import tax is currently three percent of anything over one liter of wine.
- Your homework. Study wine maps and winery descriptions to help you decide which are right for you.In town, pick up Caminos de las Bodegas, which lists most mjor wineries.
- Visit Maipu. Just outside Mendoza, Maipu features excellent wine tasting and bike and wine tours. Highly recommended.
- Be afraid to ask questions. Sommeliers in restaurants and wine staff are happy to answer questions. In fact, it’s often best to downplay your knowledge of wine so as not to appear snooty.
- Forget cash. Many bodegas accept cash only for wine purchases.
- Hit up free tours only. Generally the higher-end wineries offer tastings and tours for a minimal fee. You’ll often sample much better wines with the paid version.
- Argentina’s name derives from the Latin word “argentum”, meaning “land of silver” thanks to its many silver mines.
- 98% of Argentinians can trace their lineage from Europe. Most come from Italy and Spain, and both countries heavily influence Argentina’s cuisine.
- Argentina is the sixth largest wine producer in the world (Italy ranks first, just ahead of France).
Feature Image Credit: timsnell