The city of Mendoza in northern-central Mendoza province in Argentina is a unique city. Popular with outdoor tourism thanks to its close location to the Andes as well as Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Western and Southern Hemispheres which shadows over the region, the city is most famous for its wine.
At and the heart of Argentina’s wine country, Mendoza is a rapidly growing wine producing region and the country’s favourite spot for wine tourism. The vineyards are at one of the highest elevations in the world and it is mostly known for its fine Malbec, as well as Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. As testimony to the region’s great history of wine production, the area offers many bodegas for wine lovers to explore, as well as festivals and celebrations dedicated entirely to the beverage.
1. Vineyard tours
A great way get to know Mendoza is through the variety of tastings and tours on offer at the bodegas scattered throughout the area. The three wine producing regions of Lujan de Cuyo, Maipu and the Uco Valley are home to some of the biggest names in Argentinian wine, and a day out on a bike tour ( this is the best way, as you can go at your own pace and enjoy the beautiful surroundings along the way), whether private or group, is a must when visiting Mendoza. The options vary, so it’s a good idea to check with your hotel or hostel, as many of these can recommend particular tours, but there is a great selection of vineyards and most tours let you choose your own to visit, simply capping the number of locations visited per ticket.
Many of them also offer tastings other than wine, such as freshly made olive oil and olive spreads, liquors with a variety of flavours and even absinthe (a questionable start to an 11am wine tour!), along with tours and demonstrations of how they are made. The sunny Mendoza weather and mountainous backdrop makes for the perfect setting, and cycling down tree-lined avenues from one bodega to another, learning about and tasting the products, is truly an unforgettable day out.
2. Celebrating wine
The importance of wine production is also echoed throughout both the city and region of Mendoza with various cultural celebrations. The city’s biggest party of the year is the National Grape Harvest Festival, which dates back to 1936. The Fiesta de la Vendimia celebrates the harvest and begins in January and February, culminating in March. Around 40,000 visitors attend the city-wide party to celebrate and enjoy the wine on offer, along with traditional cuisine, song and dance, and the main event, a beauty contest to select the ‘Queen of Vendimia.’ The city has a carnival-like atmosphere, and the fountains run rosy red like wine to honour the celebrations. World Malbec Day on April 17th is also popular, meaning this part of the year in Mendoza seems to blur into one long tribute to the drink.
When I visited in April several years ago, the city was still buzzing with energy from the harvest, and the evenings were spent tasting wine from the various stands in the city. You bought yourself a wine glass for the evening and browsed the stalls, sampling till your heart’s content. Then, of course once you’d found your favourite, you’d go back for more. Live music and entertainment created a lively backdrop to the evening’s festivities, and the pride of the city in its famous drink was palpable, the thriving wine production industry being truly the heart and soul of the region.