Mendoza: A Wine Aficionado’s Paradise

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By Vanise de Sá Januário

 

Any wine aficionados thinking of visiting South America will want to plan a trip to the continent’s largest winemaking region, where they can drink high quality yet affordable wines while staying in charming hotels in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. The Mendoza region of Argentina offers all this, and much more.

 

Mendoza

Located in the desert of Cuyo in Argentina at 112km northwest of Mount Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Americas, Mendoza is one of the best places in the world to spend a few days if wine is your thing, although wine tasting is not the only activity to indulge in while there.

 

Day trips to Aconcagua, rafting, trekking, sightseeing and horseback riding are just some of the activities you can do in the area. In fact, you can even choose to visit some of the wineries on horseback.

 

Or, if you prefer, you can just choose to relax and spend a day in one of the region’s many spas. It is also possible to take a cooking class and learn more about traditional Argentinean cuisine or to taste some of the finest olive oils produced by Mendoza’s wineries.

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Getting to Mendoza

Usually travelers fly to Mendoza from Buenos Aires (1.5h) or from Santiago del Chile (45min). If you are on a budget and have the extra time to do so you could also travel by bus from both destinations (6 – 8 hours from Santiago, Chile / 13 hours from Buenos Aires, Argentina). Flight prices range from US$200 to US$500 depending upon the season and advanced purchase date. Bus tickets on the other hand are no more than US$50 each way.

 

Wine & Tasting

Mendoza has more than 800 wineries spread throughout three main wine sub-regions. With at least 100 open for visitors, consider planning your trip by region as they are quite far from each other.

 

Lujan del Cuyo

Lujan del Cuyo lies across the Mendoza River, just 20 minutes south of the city. The river provides natural irrigation for the semi-arid desert soil, helping sustain the viticulture in the region.  Here is where everything started for Mendoza and its wineries. The region became Argentina’s first official appellation, instituting the AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlée) for its Malbec in 1993, which brought international recognition for the region and its wines. Known as the Land of the Malbec, high quality Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Torrontes can also be encountered in the area.

 

Uco Valley

Just 75 minutes away from Mendoza, Uco Valley is the new frontier of Mendoza’s winemaking. Considered by many the Napa Valley of Argentina, here you’ll find the highest altitude vineyards of Argentina, with vines planted at 4600 feet above sea level. The high altitudes allow grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah and white grapes like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc to thrive.

 

Maipu

With only 20 wineries, Maipu is the smaller of Mendoza’s sub-regions. Although the most prestigious wineries are concentrated in Lujan del Cuyo and Uco Valley, Maipu offers travelers the unique opportunity to take biking tours into some of the largest wineries of Argentina. During these tours, apart from wine tastings, it’s also possible to visit a wine museum or try some of the finest olive oils and chocolates produced by the wineries of the region.

 

Whether you decide to rent a car, take the bus or book a tour, make sure you plan your visit well in advance, especially when it comes to visiting wineries and joining wine tastings. There are many agencies specialized in wine tours in Argentina while others can easily include these in a personalized itinerary that includes Mendoza as well as other parts of the country. If you don’t speak Spanish it’s particularly advisable to book tours and accommodation through an agency.

 

Vanise de Sá Januário is a travel consultant from Brazil who specializes in Latin America travel. She is an avid cook who makes every meal from the heart and is always up for a new adventure. Vanise wrote this article on behalf of South American Vacations, providers of luxury tours to Argentina and all over South America.

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