Mendoza: Wine Tasting, Sunshine and Beautiful People
Epic Travels: Planes, Trains and Automobiles
We left the cold of El Chalten, taking the bus to El Calafate airport, on our epic journey to Mendoza. Arriving very, very early check in wasn’t even open. Two hours later, wow I just love airports, we checked and were offered an earlier flight as it was still 3 hours until departure. Greg went white, I refused but the check in staff couldn’t understand explaining that there was no charge. I had to tell them that Greg needed the 3 hours to relax, drink lots of beer and take Valium.
When we arrived at security there were a bunch of Italians in front of us with full sized suitcases, I thought that it was a little odd. Anyway, they proceeded to put their suitcases on the x-ray belt. This was with great difficulty as they were really big heavy suitcases. It turns out that they thought that this was check-in, random. They were ejected from security and we carried on through.
The fight to Buenos Aires was uneventful. I had a lovely Argentinian gentleman next to me and that was the highlight. We took the bus (AR bus) from Aeroparque to the bus station at Retiro.
I know, I’ve missed out the trains, so we’ll just pretend that the AR bus was really a train. The bus station was like every bus station, horrible. Full of dodgy looking people. Absolutely massive too. We couldn’t work out where our bus was going from and ended up walking miles with the backpacks. I’m so glad that I packed light (10kgs)!
Our bus arrived. We had booked a cama-suite, which is the top end of bus travel. I had envisaged Emirates first class, so I was quite excited about our 13 hour journey. No surprise upon boarding that I’d overegged it! Still, it was a flat bed so I got plenty of sleep.
A taxi from the bus station in Mendoza and we arrived at our hotel 30 hours after we had left El Chalten.
We stayed at the Esplendor Maipu, on the recommendation of Paul and Christina (Antarctica). It’s a little outside Mendoza town centre but this means that you get more bang for your buck. Greg and I fancied a little bit of luxury and chill out time in the sun, so this was perfect.
The staff must have gotten a fright when Greg and I walked in. 30 hours of travelling with big backpacks rather than suitcases. To say that we looked dishevelled is possibly an understatement. We took a nap, showered and enjoyed the massive room that we had.
That evening Maeve-Ann and Luke (Antarctica) met us for dinner. We had a lovely evening. It turns out that these guys are funny on land as well as at sea. What a relief!
Maeve-Ann has sorted out a wine tasting tour for us all tomorrow with Trout and Wine, so I have a feeling that it will be Malbec for breakfast.
The Trout and Wine tour mini-bus picked us up at 9am with Carlos Tevez seemingly being our guide. Not really, but Juan did look very like him. Greg has taken to saying that people only look proper Argentinian if they look like Lionel Messi, but he was satisfied with Carlos Tevez as a footballing substitute. Maeve-Ann, Luke and us were joined by a German couple and another British couple. Off we set on our wine tour.
Now, regular readers will know that this isn’t our first rodeo (sorry, heard that on Ray Donovan last night and just had to use it). Greg and I are bit fans of all things wine and so far have managed winery tours in France (I think 8 times), Italy, Peru (random) and now Argentina. So, feeling like the wine experts that we are, we looked forward to seeing if the Argentinians did it differently.
Here is the lesson folks. 70% of the land in the Mendoza region is used by wineries, being the largest wine producing region in Argentina since the Spanish conquest. The Malbec variety is widely known as an Argentinian wine, but it was originally grown in France. Apparently the French didn’t have much success with the grape on their soil and weather conditions but found that it grew very well in the Andean lowlands of Mendoza.
First up we arrived at the Alta Vista winery. I was surprised to find out that it was originally established in 1899 by Spanish settlers. Now though, it is French ran by the same owners as the Taittinger champagne house. The winery was large, producing around 2 ½ million bottles of wine a year, exporting 70% of these.
We were given a tour of the winery seeing the old concrete vats, that the top range wines are kept in as the temperature is easier to regulate in these than in the other stainless steel vats. The winery was absolutely huge with the tour guide being keen to tell us that Argentina used to produce a lot of poor quality wine but now concentrates on producing less good quality wine.
By 10am we were in the tasting room, which previously had been a large vat. Our tasting menu started with a sparkling rose wine, which was lovely. Next up was an Argentinian special, a white grape variety called Torrontes. This grape is only grown in Argentina, mainly in the Salta region and must be grown at least 800m above sea level. It is known as the liar wine due to its peach aromas but sour taste. I think that it is one of the first glasses of wine that I couldn’t finish. I really did not like it. We then moved onto a Malbec blend, a full Malbec and then their top end wine. These wines were very nice but I thought overpriced. This could be due to the inflation that has recently hit Argentina of over 40%. I didn’t think that they stacked up next to French wines of the same price.
Our next vineyard is named “Wild Geese” in the indigenous language. This is because wild geese migrate from Chile to Argentina and the Chilean owner of this vineyard has done the same. The vineyard was originally owned by Italians. It seems that all of the wineries have European links in some way. We were all given grape picking hats before being shown around the vines armed with a glass of sparkling wine. A lot of the vines were protected due to the large size hailstones that this region sometimes suffers. We also toured around the winery, which produces 2 million bottles a year.
Next up the tasting, starting with a Chardonnay. This was more like it, but again very expensive relatively. Three red wines followed, two Malbecs and one Cabernet Sauvignon. All delicious but out of our price range, £15 was the cheapest bottle.
Our third stop was at Casarena, where we had lunch and a LOT of wine. The lunch was a 5 course taster menu accompanied by a different glass of wine with each course. However, the waitress kept filling up our glasses so I’m sure we much have had 10 glasses each at least.
The lunch and the wine were absolutely delicious, in a beautiful vineyard setting.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the name of the last vineyard that we visited. This is likely to be on account of consuming 20 glasses of wine already today. The winery was a very small producer of 2,500 bottles a year. The building was very funky in architecture, with two gorgeous dogs so I was happy. We fooled around whilst here, the poor winery getting all the drunk guests! I decided that it would be a good idea to take a photo of Maeve-Ann and Greg through the glass floor from below. They decided it would be a better idea if they laid on the floor. Oh those guys!!
We had a wonderful day, Trout and Wine definitely looked after us all.
That evening we met Maeve-Ann and Luke in Mendoza for dinner, and ended up getting soaked to the skin due to a torrential downpour. It was time to say goodbye to our new buddies. We have gatecrashed their honeymoon enough so will not be stalking them to their next destination of Valpariso, not matter how much they begged us to.
Sunshine and Beautiful People
The rest of our time in Mendoza was spent reading, swimming, lying by the pool and generally having a lovely holiday. It made a change from travelling all the time, which was welcomed by us.
Whilst in Mendoza, Greg and I realised that Argentinians may just be the most beautiful people in the world. All the men around the pool were fit. But God obviously favoured Argentinian men, because the women WOW! So many perfect figures around the pool, all wearing thongs (I think G-strings in American / Australian). I basically had to watch perfect bottoms lounging around the pool for days. Greg wouldn’t admit it but I think that he enjoyed it more than me.
One night we were sat outside a pizza restaurant and fell in love with a gorgeous little kitten. The kitten thought that it was a dog and wanted its belly tickled. It also wanted Greg’s beer. So lovely and cute (this is from a dog person). I wanted to adopt it, could have put it in my pocket but not sure if Juno would have liked it. Anyway, I had to include photos because it was so cute.
Our next stop is our last stop, Buenos Aires via another long overnight bus journey. The day to leave came, so we checked out, spent the day by the pool then showered and changed in the spa area. Off we went to the bus station and I asked where the bus left from. I was given a stand number so we waited, and waited. Half an hour after the bus was due to leave I returned to the desk and asked again. I was told the stand number again.
An hour past the bus departure time and the bus station was started to look pretty empty. I returned to the desk and asked a different person. She telephoned the main depot to ask why the bus was so late. I was told that my ticket was for the 13th, yes the 13th I replied. She said, that’s tomorrow. No I replied it’s today. She brought up a calendar and showed me that no it is tomorrow. Sheepishly I returned to Greg and told him.
So, taxi back to the hotel for me to admit my mistake. Greg disowned me and sat in the lobby, whilst I endured the hilarity of our situation. Luckily we got another room but we then ended up having groundhog day the next day waiting for our bus.
On checking out, the staff did ask if we were really leaving this time, oh haha!
So, we had a worse bus going back to Buenos Aires, but it did have bingo for Greg to practice his Spanish numbers, so every cloud……..
Let us know if you have any comments or recommendations for Mendoza.