The Mendoza Province of Argentina stands as a crown jewel among the world's great wine regions, with a viticultural legacy dating back to the late 16th century. A 19th-century wine boom catapulted Mendoza into the position of the largest wine-producing region in Latin America, and today, it contributes to approximately 70% of Argentina's total wine production, boasting sprawling vineyards covering about 371,000 acres.
This vinicultural success is attributed to a myriad of natural factors that favor the Mendoza vineyards. The region's arid climate, limited precipitation, substantial thermal range, and high-quality soil create an ideal environment for grape cultivation. Mendoza basks in an abundance of sunny days each year, a climatic phenomenon further enhanced by its lofty altitude. With the average vineyard situated between 2,000 and 3,600 feet above sea level, the vines enjoy an intensified sunlight exposure, resulting in grapes of exceptional quality.
Mendoza has earned global acclaim, particularly for its Malbecs, which thrive in the arid, high-altitude conditions. However, the region's oenological prowess extends to a diverse array of varietals, including Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. These grapes flourish in three distinct regions within the province: Maipú, Luján de Cuyo, and the Uco Valley. For the discerning oenophile, touring these regions is an exquisite journey, offering a choice among over 1,500 wineries.
Nestled to the south and east of Mendoza city, the Maipú Valley unfolds as a traditional wine-producing region with a rich history, offering the easiest access among the three regions. Despite its proximity to urban landscapes and major highways, Maipú Valley is a treasure trove of world-famous wineries that make it well worth a visit.
This region is a gateway to Mendoza's wine-producing heritage, and one popular way to explore its wineries is by bicycle. The majority of the wineries in Maipú accept walk-in visits, eliminating the need for reservations and providing a flexible and immersive wine-tasting experience. While Maipú may not boast the same picturesque landscapes as the other two regions, it compensates with its accessibility and the allure of some globally acclaimed wineries.
Among the gems in Maipú are Familia di Tommaso, Tempus Alba, Bodega La Rural, and Trapiche. Together, these wineries cover a substantial portion of Mendoza's wine-producing history, offering ample opportunities to sample some of the finest wines. So, hop on a bike, traverse the historic vineyards, and let the stories of Familia di Tommaso, Tempus Alba, Bodega La Rural, and Trapiche unfold as you sip on the exquisite wines they proudly produce.
Approximately 40 minutes south of Mendoza city by car, the Luján de Cuyo wine region beckons with sandy soils and high altitudes that have become synonymous with Argentina's most distinguished Malbecs. While Malbec takes center stage in this viticultural haven, Luján de Cuyo also showcases the versatility of its terroir, cultivating outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Torrontes.
Luján de Cuyo played a pivotal role in elevating Argentina's wine-producing reputation to a global level, and it proudly holds the distinction of being the first region in the country to establish a recognized delineated appellation, specifically for Malbec in 1993. Acclaimed wineries in the region, such as Carmelo Patti, Ruca Malen, and the iconic Catena Zapata (whose main building is architecturally inspired by a Mayan pyramid), have contributed significantly to the region's prestige.
Exploring Luján de Cuyo independently may require more planning than Maipú Valley, as many wineries demand advanced reservations. However, choosing a guided tour, whether by car or bike, simplifies the logistics, with reservations typically arranged for you.
The Uco Valley (Valle de Uco) stands as the newest jewel in Mendoza's wine crown, often hailed as the premier wine region in Argentina. Although the furthest of the three regions from the city, requiring an approximately hour and a quarter drive, a visit promises an immersive day in wine paradise amidst breathtaking scenery.
Elevated to be one of the world's highest wine-growing regions, the Uco Valley encompasses around 197,000 acres planted at altitudes ranging from 3,000 to 3,900 feet. This lofty elevation, combined with alluvial soils, minimal rainfall sourced from the Andes, significant temperature variations between day and night, and over 250 sunny days annually, creates an idyllic environment for cultivating high-quality wine grapes. The Uco Valley has earned acclaim for its award-winning Malbecs, known for their deep color, rich aroma, and flavorful profile. Beyond Malbec, the region proudly nurtures Merlot, Pinot Noir, Semillon, and Torrontes.
While the Uco Valley demands a full day for a comprehensive visit, the effort is rewarded with a wine-tasting experience set against a backdrop of stunning landscapes. Most wineries in the Uco Valley require advanced reservations, so meticulous trip planning is advisable. Here, you'll encounter a diverse range of excellent wineries offering captivating tours and tastings. Notable establishments include Andeluna, Salentein, Domaine Bosquet, and the charming Bodega La Azul, where a five-course lunch with wine pairings adds a delightful culinary dimension to your Uco Valley exploration.
Mendoza Wine Region offers a diverse palette of wines, with Malbec reigning supreme. Indulge in the velvety richness of Malbec, savor the fruity notes of Bonarda, explore the floral elegance of Torrontés, and appreciate the complexity of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Each sip is a journey through the region's terroir, reflecting the sun-soaked days and cool nights of the Andean foothills.
Pairing seamlessly with the wines, Mendoza's cuisine is a celebration of Argentine flavors.
Here's a taste of the gastronomic delights awaiting you:
Stews (Carne a la Olla): Mendoza's culinary landscape embraces hearty stews, known as carne a la olla. This dish, a savory marriage of various meats such as goat, lamb, and beef, reflects the region's robust flavors. For vegetarians, Mendoza offers delightful stews based on trout, providing a delectable alternative.
Empanadas Mendocinas: A true Argentinean classic, empanadas mendocinas are baked pastries that encapsulate the essence of Mendoza's culinary heritage. Filled with a flavorful mixture of beef, onions, paprika, hot pepper powder, cumin, and oregano, these savory delights are a culinary journey in every bite.
Grilled Meat (Asado): The unmistakable aroma of grilling meat, known as asado,'permeates the air in Mendoza, echoing the traditional Argentinean culinary experience. Whether sizzling on an outdoor grill or in the iconic setting, the key to a perfect barbecue is the slow-cooking process, ensuring the meat emerges soft and tender, a testament to Mendoza's commitment to culinary excellence.
Humita: A culinary heritage passed down from pre-Colombian civilizations, 'humita' is a culinary gem in Mendoza. Fresh maize, pounded to a paste, is wrapped in a maize husk and delicately steamed or boiled. This dish captures the essence of Mendoza's connection to its ancient roots, offering a taste of history and tradition.
For those seeking adventure beyond the vineyards, Mendoza's surrounding landscapes offer enchanting hiking opportunities. Embark on a trek in the Aconcagua Provincial Park, home to the highest peak in the Americas. Discover the beauty of the Andes as you hike to pristine mountain lakes, taking in panoramic views of the snow-capped peaks. These hikes provide a refreshing contrast to the indulgent wine and culinary experiences, allowing you to immerse yourself in the natural beauty that surrounds Mendoza.
The Mendoza Wine Region is a haven for wine enthusiasts, culinary aficionados, and nature lovers alike. Whether exploring historic vineyards, savoring delectable cuisine, or hiking in the shadow of the Andes, Mendoza promises an unforgettable journey through the heart of Argentina's winemaking heritage.
Contact a travel advisor at Voyagers to start planning your wine tour in Mendoza