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Don't wine for me, Argentina

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March 26, 2014 / Argentinean / By
Naomi Doyle

A few years back now, I had the incredible privilege of being chauffeured around the Uco Valley – the wine region of Mendoza, Argentina. My guides were Tom and Dario from Jed Wines; my companions were my sisters, Rebecca and Rachael. It was a tight squeeze into Dario’s little, white, beat-up car and it only got tighter the more we wined and dined over the days that followed. 

Our first stop was Benvenuto de la Serna where we were graciously met by our hosts Inaki, Jose and Frederico. They led us to a sprawling field where a table, heavily laden with bottles of wine was set in the shade of a chestnut tree. The only thing more spectacular that the setting was the view of the snowcapped Andes mountain range mere kilometers from us. Our tasting soon became an impromptu lunch feast with platters of simple and delicious Argentinean fare being laid out. We passed the afternoon in the warmth of their company and the gentle Mendozan sun.

The following day we enjoyed a champagne breakfast with the Don Pedro Rosell himself, founder of Cruzat Champagne Vineyard. Well into his 70’s, he is as effervescent, complex and charming as his selection of sparkling wines. He walked and talked us through the entire process from vine, to blending, to bottling, to cellaring, to drinking!

It was with heavy hearts and light heads that we bade him farewell and headed off down a long and dusty road to an unmarked vineyard. We would have passed it right by if not for the fact that we were following the owner, Gillermo of Marguerey Wines. Now even closer to the Andes, we picked and tasted the last of the season's malbec grapes straight from the vines before being led back to Gillermo’s much smaller, boutique operation where we had the rare opportunity of tasting his extraordinary wines in the very early stages of their development – unsurprisingly, it tasted like grape juice!

We farewelled Gillermo and headed to our last vineyard of the day, Trapezio, for yet another remarkably different experience. Here we were met by Lucas, Marcelo and Mauro - three young guys trying new and interesting varieties and methods as a counter point to the long standing traditions of Mendozan wines. They joked that their wines tasted like them but I'm yet to taste that much charisma in a bottle! Perhaps it was the day of drinking, or the sun setting over The Andes or the fabled 'sondo' wind picking up but our time at Trapezio was pure joy. We didn't want to leave but we had dinner plans...

We’d been invited into the home of Matias of Eral Bravo wines for a private tasting and dinner with his family. The opulence of their home and sumptuousness of the meal would have been intimidating if not for the genuine warmth of our hosts who felt like long lost friends by the time we left.

The following day we were unexpectedly reunited with Lucas from Trapezio when we found him stomping grapes for the opposition… his father, Angel Mendoza. Yes, that’s actually his name and one that is regarded highly throughout the region. Angel took us on a tour of his spectacular vineyard with massive olive trees creating avenues to protect the vines from the sondo which was still gently blowing from the day before. Naturally, we ended with a tasting but there's no way of knowing which was more intoxicating - the wine or the Mendoza family charm.

They waved us goodbye as we headed to our final wine destination - Alpamanta - by far the most remote and taxing on poor Dario's car as we took half an hour to traverse the last 5kms down a very rocky and dusty road. 

When we arrived, the asado (traditional Argentinean barbecue) was already fired up and an abundant feast laid out for us to share with the family. The adults wined and dined while children and dogs ran wild. The highlight for me was a delicious malbec tart served with barbecued quince and dulce de leche.

The tour that followed once again showed us the extraordinary diversity of winemaking (and winemakers!) in the region. Andreas' wines are entirely organic, as are all his farming methods which include such rituals as burying a bulls horn stuffed with its own poo in a corner of the vineyard to encourage growth and the hanging up of a deer’s bladder filled with certain flowers to ward off bad luck. It definitely seems to be working for them. 

My time in Mendoza was such an extraordinary privilege and a hell of a way to kick off an 8-month trip of eating and drinking my way around the globe. Stay tuned for more of my adventures here on www.eattheglobe.com or on my Patches McGee travel blog

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Country: Argentina

Province/State: Mendoza

City: N/A

Address: N/A

Zip/Post Code: N/A

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Price Guide:N/A (What's this?) N/A = home cooked meal,etc
$ = street food, fast food,etc
$$ = bistro, cafe, pub, bar,etc
$$$ = fine dining,etc

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