Adios Buenos Aires… Hola Mendoza.
An experience. Left the Hilton bright and early, so early there was a surcharge on the taxi. The new Ezeiza airport was in a mess. Domestic flights were disrupted due to repairs being made on the runway. Jorge Newbury, the domestic airport was closed for month. No one knew what was happening but hey it’s LatAm and its pretty normal. The boarding pass stated to report to security at 6.40am – and they meant it. SHE (security guard) stood sternly at the entrance, checking all boarding passes with an eagle eye. Coffee with Medialuna – Spanish for Croissant, right next to the gate area while we wait. Talk about the right place at the right time while it lasts.. the cafe was heaving with people but the coffee was good.
At precisely 06.40, she started letting people through to security. Water bottles were OK. Wow, in LatAm, wine is allowed to be carried on board, too. We then understood the reason for the timing. All domestic flights were through ONE gate and after security – no shops, no cafes, no nothing, just ONE gate.
Boarding was by rows. Irritated that my rolling cabin bag was confiscated at the gate. I had my passport and all my money in the bag! Then again the plane was a small one. It left on time and we arrived early. Baggage collection was immediate and Chrissie was waiting for us with the driver.
One of the most beautiful regions in the world with friendly, nice people everywhere. There are 21 wine regions in Argentina with over 1000 wineries in Mendoza alone. Argentinians drink approximately 30 litres of wine per person per year. This figure has certainly dropped with beer and spirits now competing in the market. 1980s saw the overproduction of wine in Argentina leading to many wineries biting the dust.
Tasting notes in separate blogs.
First stop – Mendel a small family run winery headed by Roberto de la Mota, now in his 50s, son of a wine maker, grew up in the vineyard. He worked at LVMH and 2004 was his first vintage at Mendel. Sadly, Roberto was in a very bad car accident but is still involved in the winery. One of the first vineyards in Argentina to export, Mendel is located in the Lujan de Cuyo region. This adobe style winery has four main handpicked grape wines in the making and has steel tanks left in the open! A mobile bottling unit is brought in to do the task.
Next we head to Acheval Ferrer a unique winery with 5 owners, 4 Argentinians and an Italian. Absolutely amazingly modern with all modcons. A bunch of crazy vinophiles, trying all sorts of techniques to produce interesting wines. Fermentation tanks included concrete with external fans to cool the fermenting juice, stainless steel vats and temperature controlled oak barriques. One big space station and the astronauts to go with it! Fabulous wines and two home produced olive oils, too. Professional set up with very knowlegeable guides. Patricia, thank you for that amazing bottle of Dulce which I so enjoyed.
Ruca Malen for lunch. NO physical tour of the vineyard but an amazing palate tour matched food and wine to the almost impossible.
The last stop of the day was to Catena Zapata, brainchild of Laura Catena, 4th generation wine maker of the Zapata fame. The winery probably complete with solar calculations was built on the Mayan inspired culture of science and technology faces the Andes dividing Argentina and Chile. The private drive leading to this winery is just amazing. Breath taking scenery all around. Inside the architecture is just as unique with lighting that matched the feel. Wines were beautifully made.
Dinner was at Siete Cocinas, serving regional Argentinian food. The Pacu was indeed deliciously creamy. A highly prized ugly looking fish from the northern region of Argentina, known to give a good fight to any decent fisherman. On the 1st day of the season speed boats can be seen racing off to the best spots to hunt this moist, almost oily, meaty fish. Washed down with a great bottle of Ruttini’s Torrontes.
Day two took us down to Tupungato and the Uco Valley. First stop was to Andeluna, owned by the America’s Frito Lay (potato chips). Here the irrigation technique is optimal to combat the harsh desert like climate. Michel Rolland is consultant to this winery hence the high quality of wines.
Next to Salentein, a Dutch owned winery with 2000 hectares of vines spread on different altitudes at the base of the Andes. With separate wineries built in the region, the flagship holds an Art collection. Surrounded by rose and jarilla bushes, the wines of Salentein are delicately nosed. The tasting room was highly impressive with fixed spitoons that drained directly into the plumbing. Beautiful stone tables supported the bottles and glasses.
Lunch was at O Fournier, the “piece des resistance” of Mendoza. The out of a James Bond movie winery with it’s flying saucer glass walls looking out into the wilderness was just unbelievable.