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Situated to the west of Buenos Aires, en-route to the Chilean capital of Santiago, Mendoza is Argentina’s wine country. A lively city situated to the east of Mount Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Andes mountain range, Mendoza produces nearly two-thirds of all Argentinian wine. A tour of the Mendoza wine region should be on every wine connoisseur’s bucket list.
Blessed with long hours of sunshine, Mendoza’s semi-arid, desert plains receive water from alpine snow melt. That, combined with high altitude, makes the area perfect for growing grapes for malbec, a tannic wine with intense colour and Argentina’s favorite. Cool evening temperatures mean that fruit ripens slower, adding to the flavour and texture of the wine.
The sub-regions to visit on Mendoza wine tours include the Uco Valley, Luján de Cuyo, Maipu and Eastern Mendoza. Read on for a brief overview of each area and the top recommended wineries within each sub-region of Mendoza.
Luján de Cuyo is best known for being the home of malbec. Brought to the country from France, the Argentinian variety of this wine was first produced in 1852. The area is known for its stylish bodegas which are connected through popular wine routes.
- Bodega Catena Zapata
Named after its founder Nicolas Catena Zapata, this winery employed French wine-making methods which revolutionised the Argentinian wine industry. The winery is shaped like a Mayan pyramid and is a beautiful sight to behold. Adrianna vineyard, which is situated almost 5000 feet above sea level, leaves no doubt as to why Catena Zapata is one of Argentina’s most famous wine brands.
- Bodega ReNacer
This award-winning winery offers a Winemaker Visit in which guests may blend wines from different areas in Mendoza to create a unique flavour. A premium tasting at the winery includes visit to the vineyards, the "appassimento" area, and the production area, and then allows you to taste two Icon wines directly from the barrels. Guided by their sommerlier, you can sample four high quality wines in the barrel room. They also offer an ‘own bottle’ tour, in-which guests can fill a bottle of malbec from the fermenting tank, cork the bottle, label it and take it home as a souvenir.
Things to do in Luján de Cuyo:
- Visit Our Lady of the Carrodilla, a church dedicated the to the patron saint of wine.
- Take a break between wine tastings for sporting activities such as hiking, cycling and whitewater rafting in Mendoza river, which are popular in the region.
- Stop at one of the area’s quaint little heladerías (ice cream shops) to indulge in delicious ice cream.
- Visit Parque de Aqua Termal in Cacheuta, 30 minutes-drive from Luján de Cuyo. It’s a waterpark with thermal baths of varying temperatures, which are fed from the area’s natural hot springs.
Maipu is Mendoza province’s historic wine and olive region. Although the areas produce mainly malbec, it is also well-known for tempranillo, cabernet and pinot noir. Maipu is situated to the southeast of Mendoza city and is a popular stop on Mendoza wine tours.
- Trapiche Winery
Trapiche winery is housed in a beautifully restored 19th century Florentine-style building. The interior features elegant lines in glass and steel and state-of-the-art wine making equipment. Trapiche is one of the largest wineries in Maipu, best known for award winning wines and single vineyard malbecs.
- Familia Zuccardi
Familia Zuccardi, as the name suggests, is a family-run operation with three generations of Zuccardi’s providing hands on wine-making expertise. They grow mainly cabernet sauvignon and malbec on vines supported by a parral system (high trellis) which allows for better ventilation and light. We suggest a tour of the olive groves and partaking of the delicious fare available at the restaurant to make a visit to Familia Zuccardi most memorable.
Things to do in Maipu:
- Visit the Wine and Grape Harvest Museum.
- Explore Maipu vineyards by bicycle.
- Rent a bike. It is easy and economical in Maipu.
Situated about 160 km south of Mendoza, the Uco Valley’s (Valle de Uco) elevation and proximity to the Andes mountains makes it one of the most scenic wine-making regions in Mendoza. It boasts a number of excellent vineyards and fruit orchards as well as brilliant architectural elements.
- Bodega Salentein
Bodega Salentein is one of the largest and oldest wineries in the Uco Valley. It produces millions of bottles annually and due to the estate’s elevation, the wine is some of the highest quality, most premium wines the region has to offer. The Primus pinot noir is one of the best wines. The winery is unique in that it is built in the shape of a cross, incorporating a spiritual aspect to the building’s design.
- La Azul
La Azul is a boutique winery which produces quality red wines. The winemakers here use artisanal wine-making techniques, which are explained to interested visitors during a La Azul winery tour. The rustic BBQ-style restaurant offers a relaxed and charming food and wine experience.
Things to do:
- Go on a day trip to La Quebrada del Condor, a family owned ranch in the Andes mountain, offering plenty of activities.
- Try fly-fishing as well as bird watching, hiking and horseback riding.
- Take Instagram-worthy photos at Christo Ray del Valle, a 28-meter-tall figure of Christ the Redeemer. The view around the statue is equally stunning.
Eastern Mendoza consists of several areas, namely San Martín, Rivadavia, Junín, Santa Rosa and La Paz. The area has a more rural atmosphere, and although the wineries in this subregion are more focused on output, they also offer some surprisingly charming cultural experiences for tourists. Their best varieties are bonarda, malbec and syrah, as well as some easy drinking wines with a fresh fruity flavour such as chardonnay and sauvignon blanc.
- Titarelli Wines
Titarelli Wines, established in 1915, is a centennial vineyard and one the few wine farms in the Rivadavia area offering wine tours and tastings. Although this farm has historic roots going back 100 years, they have updated their facilities to modern standards and are able to produce nine million litres of wine each year! Some of their wines include cabernet, sauvignon, malbec, tempranillo, bonarda, syrah, chardonnay and torrontes. They also produce rich, fruity olive oils of an excellent quality.
- Bodega Niven Wines
Situated in Junin, on the banks of the Salado del Sur river, this Niven family winery has been making wine since the 1920’s. At Niven Wines, the focus is on daily wines of a high quality. They endeavour to create wines in harmony with nature and great respect is given to the environment both in the vineyard and the cellar. They produce malbec, cabernet franc, chardonnay and pinot noir.
Things to do:
- The eastern shore of the El Carrizal dam, near Rivadavia, has many sportfishing and yacht clubs.
- Soak in the beautiful views, and indulge in a one day hike in Cerro Arco.
Mendoza can be visited at any time of the year for its natural beauty, charming towns and splendid vineyards. Wine tasting in Mendoza is best done in the warmer months (November to February). This is also harvest time when most Mendoza wineries host events and activities.
You might want to consider taking that Argentina tour during the Harvest Festival and spending some time in the city of Mendoza to make the most of the celebratory atmosphere.
If you are a skier and happen to visit the area in winter, inquire about skiing in Las Lenas, only 450 km from Mendoza.
- It’s best to carry cash when visiting Mendoza wineries as many do not take credit cards.
- Keep in mind that wineries are situated far apart. Because each region is unique you will want to dedicate enough time to explore the local nuances of each.
- It is advisable to visit a maximum of three to five wineries per day. It is important to ensure that you have pre-booked wine tasting, wine tours and restaurant arrangements.
- You wouldn’t want to miss out on either the views or the wines. If possible make use of one of the many wine tour operators in Mendoza.
- A stop at the Vines Wine Bar & Vinoteca, which is situated at the Mendoza Park Hyatt hotel, is a must on any Mendoza wine tour. Here, you can choose from the regions best 100 wines without traipsing from one winery to the next.
- Inquire about the Harvest Festival, which takes place annually in Mendoza, to see if it coincides with your travel dates. If so, you may want to spend some time in the city of Mendoza to make the most of the celebratory atmosphere.
You will find the Argentinian spirit embodied in everything in Mendoza province, from the wine to the wineries and from the plazas to the people. It will be hard to find another destination which combines art, architecture, good food and great wine in a more beautiful setting. Taking a Mendoza wine tour is like taking a step back in time to experience old-world charm with the convenience of modern amenities.