Mendoza land of Malbec

One of the most enjoyable days I had in Argentina was the day I took a wine tour from Mendoza.  Mendoza is a small city in the West, surrounded by high-altitude winelands in the foothills of the Andes.  Argentina’s famous Malbec wines come from this region.

I took a tour with Peter Wine Tours, which turned out to be really enjoyable and professional.  Five members of our group joined the tour, and it was a private one just for ourselves.  Our guide was the knowledgeable, friendly, approachable and enthusiastic Ivan, who shared his love of wine with us, including showing us his collection of wine labels, and also talked about Argentina’s wine industry, his trips to Europe, and the meals he enjoys with his boyfriend.  I cannot recommend him highly enough as a guide.

After being collected from our hotel at 8.30am, our first stop was at a vineyard called Alta Vista, where we were shown around the cellars and learned about the wine making process.

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I was still struggling to wake up at this stage, and walked around the cool cellars in a stupor until we reached the tasting room.  At this stage it was just after 9.30am, and already time to start tasting wine.  Here we were given small samples of a number of red and white wines and the opportunity to buy a glass of the vineyard’s signature wine, Alto, a bottle of which costs in excess of €130.  While the Alto was very nice, I wasn’t any more impressed by it than by the others I tasted.

Moving on from here, the minibus took us to the second vineyard of the day, Kaiken Wines, where we were given a tour of the grape growing areas outdoors.  The views here were striking and spectacular, with blue sky over white, snow-covered mountains, and green or brown winelands below.

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This vineyard’s tasting room was where the fun really began.  We were treated to generous measures of one white, one rose and three red wines, and by the time we left, 45 minutes behind schedule, everyone was well on the way to drunk.

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The last place that Ivan took us to was the vineyard of Susana Balbo, the first woman in Argentina to become a qualified sommelier, who helped to popularise Malbec despite her male colleagues’ attempts to hold her back.  Here we settled down to a five course gourmet lunch, with wines matched to each course.  We each sat down to a lunch setting with five wine glasses.

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The first course was a salad of leaves, green apple, avocado and cherry tomatoes.  Second, everyone else had a rabbit pate and my vegetarian option was a sweet potato puree with more avocado and grilled vegetables.  Third was a potato filled with an egg-based sauce and a beetroot garnish.  The level of thought and detail put into the dishes was immense.  For the main course, I chose a vegetable tart with a flower garnish, from which flavours exploded.

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Finally, dessert was a selection of small dishes from sweet to delicious blue cheese with walnuts, washed down with a sparkling wine that tasted like gold.

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I ate absolutely everything and it was some of the best food I’ve ever had.  By the time we left the restaurant and boarded the minibus, around 5pm, everyone was very drunk and talking freely and giddily about any subject that came to mind.

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After the ride back to our hotel, the rest of the evening was spent sleeping.  Having enjoyed such a lunch, no dinner was needed.

I highly recommend Peter Wine Tours as the best option for anyone visiting Mendoza and looking to take a vineyard tour.  Everything from the gourmet food and excellent wines to the wonderful views and Ivan’s in-depth knowledge made it one of the best days of my month in South America.

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