Mendoza has become inseparable from its signature grape varietal and its booming wine industry, and frankly, we're not complaining. Since no trip to Mendoza is complete without a wine tour, when I, being a bit of a wine lover, booked a trip to this famous wine region, I was quick to add this Classic Wine Tour to my itinerary.
This Mendoza Classic Wine Tour is the perfect way to spend an afternoon in Mendoza getting to know a bit more about the wine region. The biggest advantage of booking a tour is having a knowledgeable guide to explain the ins and outs of Mendoza's wine industry.
As we were transported in a comfortable mini-bus to the Maipú wine district, our wonderful guide, Claudia, explained the origins of Malbec in Argentina and gave us some insight into why this grape has flourished here in Mendoza (it's all down to the altitude, the sandy soil conditions, and the daily fluctuations in temperature).
Stop 1: Bodegas Lopez
After learning a bit more about the growth in the Mendoza's wine production, we reached the first stop, Bodegas Lopez. Founded by José López Rivas from Spain, in 1898, this historic winery is still in the capable hands of the founding family. This winery represents everything good about Mendoza's wine industry today: rich in history and a strong tradition of wine making, blended harmoniously with modern technology.
We quickly learnt that the advantage to being an English-speaking tourist in Mendoza's wineries is that you end up lucking out with private tours of the wineries, separate to the bigger tour groups. Guided by a winery representative, we embarked on a private tour around the winery and cellars, seeing the wine at its different stages as our guide explained the wine-making process. The tour culminated in a delicious wine tasting in the winery's immaculate tasting room. Needless to say, we did not leave empty-handed.
Stop 2: Local Olive Farm
To break up the wineries, and to ensure everyone had some lining in their stomachs, the next stop was to an olive farm. Olive trees are Mendoza's other significant crop, with the country's top olive oils hailing from this region.
We visited Pasrai, a boutique factory of extra virgin olive oil as well as a producer of dehydrated fruits and vegetables, particularly raisins, from which it takes its name. This olive farm, keeping with the theme of the wineries visited, is also family owned.
We were treated to another expertly guided tour around the factory, as we learnt how olive oil is produced (fun fact - it takes an astonishingly large amount of olives to produce just one bottle of olive oil, especially as the olives preferred for making oil are small, with a small yield). I certainly left with a much greater appreciation for the price of olive oil, given the process that goes into it.
To end the visit here, we enjoyed a comprehensive tasting of the farm's various cold-pressed olive oils, including unfiltered (incredible!) and flavoured oils, as well as a selection of the farm's tapenade and dried fruits. It was a delicious way to cleanse the palate after the wine - and to prepare ourselves for the next winery!
Stop 3: Cavas de Don Arturo
The final winery of the tour was Cavas de Don Arturo. In contrast to Bodegas Lopez, which produces a staggering amount of wine each year, this family run winery produces red wine only, which is exclusively available in the winery itself and to a small export market.
From the ultra-modern cellars of Lopez, this rustic, small-scale winery was a wonderful contrast. The tour here was very personal, run by the family themselves. Everyone is involved in the wine-making process, including the wonderful wife of the owner, who doesn't drink alcohol but has an intimate understanding of the process of wine-making.
Free from the bustle of the bigger wineries, the personal touch, slower pace, and guided wine tasting here made this bodega feel special.
To round off the wine tasting experience in Mendoza, we visited the Church of Carrodilla's Virgin. This figure of the Virgin was brought from Spain by Don Antonio de Solanilla in the 18th century, and is the Patron Saint of Vineyards and Harvests. The mysticism around her grew when the church holding her image was one of the few buildings to withstand the devastating earthquake that hit Mendoza in 1861. Today she is an important figure in Mendoza's Grape Harvest Festival.
This was an excellent way to finish the tour, leaving me feeling like I had not only tasted some fantastic wines and cold-pressed olive oils, but that I was also walking away with a deeper understanding of the history and culture of Mendoza's wine industry.
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* Note that the vineyards visited on this tour may vary.
Written by: Nicole Eberhard