Travel Guide to Mendoza Wine Region
The Mendoza wine region is widely considered to be the most important wine region of Argentina. Mendoza has gained this reputation as it accounts for almost two thirds of the entire wine production in Argentina. This wine region is located in the eastern foothills of the Andes Mountains, overlooked by the imposing Mount Aconcagua. The vineyards of Mendoza are planted at some of the highest altitudes in the world with some reaching as high as 36 00 feet above sea level. The vast majority of wineries in Argentina are located in Mendoza and as such, it is considered the heart of the country’s wine making industry.
Find out about Wine tasting and Tours in Mendoza to enjoy if you visit the region.
The Heart and Soul of the Argentinean Wine Industry
The Mendoza wine region of Argentina was originally known as Cuyo. This region experienced a dramatic boom in wine making in the 919th and 20th centuries which resulted in the area developing into the fifth largest wine growing region in the world and the largest in all of Latin America.
The climate of Mendoza is continental with areas of semi-arid desert conditions. There are four distinct seasons throughout the year, without any real temperature extremes. This provides a very stable growing cycle for the vines without any major events such as winter dormancy. The main concern for winemakers regarding the climate is the hail during the summer months which is known to locals as La Piedra.
The soils in Mendoza are predominantly made of alluvial soils that contains loose sand over layers of clay. The many mountain rivers in the region including the Desaguadero, Mendoza, Tunuyán, Diamante and Atuel Rivers, are excellent sources of irrigation. The water in these rivers is supplied by the melting glaciers in the Andes Mountains. Across Mendoza there are more than 17 000 boreholes that provide the region with the equivalent of two rivers worth of water flow to the area. In addition to this, the region has an intricate irrigation system of canals, channels and reservoirs that dates back to the 16th century.
The Sub-Regions of the Mendoza Wine Region
The sub-regions of the Mendoza wine region are Maipu, Luján de Cuyo, Uco Valley, San Rafael and East Mendoza (also known as San Martin). Maipu is located close to the main city of Mendoza and is the warmest of the sub regions. Wines produced here are full bodied with high levels of alcohol, fruity flavours and powerful tannins. In Lujan de Cuyo, the most prominent grape varietals grown are Malbec and Cabernet Franc. In the Uco Valley one can witness the most beautiful views of the Mendoza region and drink some of the area’s most premium wines. This area in the foothills of the Andes is dotted with blue lakes and rolling vineyards, making it the perfect wine tourism destination.
Red: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah, Tempranillo
White: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc
The High-Altitude Wines of Mendoza
Due to its size and diverse range of grape varietals, the Mendoza region produces a range of white and red wines that impress the palate of a range of wine drinkers.
The Barrancas area of Mendoza is well known for the production of red wine that has the flavors of darker fruits and soft levels of acidity. Barrancas produces internationally recognized Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon wines. In Maipu, the red wine production is dominated by the Malbec, which gives the wine flavors of red fruits with hints of tobacco. The red wines of the Uco Valley are dense with layers flavours of black fruits such as plums, blackberries, olives and raspberries. These wines have notes of red pepper with a finish of cocoa powder. The San Rafeal area produces mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec red wines with flavors of red roasted berries and a finish that is herbal and savory. Along with this, they also produce red wine blends using Syrah and Malbec grapes. These wines are dark purple in color with violet under tones.
Even though the Mendoza region is most famous for its red wines, white wines are also produced in the region using Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Mendoza Chardonnay is a fresh wine that is often described as vibrant. These wines have a well-balanced acidity with notes of white fruits such as apples, pears and peaches. The region also produces Mendoza sparkling wines from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. In recent times these sparkling wines have becoming extremely popular both locally and internationally.
Where to Go in Mendoza
Mendoza City – The Tourism Hub of the Mendoza Region
Mendoza City is the capital of the province of Mendoza. Although this area is extremely dry and arid, Mendoza City is beautifully green thanks to its artificial irrigation system. The top attrations to visit in Mendoza City are the Parque San Martin, the various wineries in and around the city, the Plaza Independencia, the Mendoza Museum of Modern Art, the Piaza Espana, Central Park and the Casa de Fader. Along with these attractions, Mendoza City also hosts a number of festivals and events throughout the year. The most popular of these is the harvest festival at the end of February each year.
When visiting Mendoza City don’t forget that a siesta or afternoon nap is still taken daily from 13:00 – 17:00 during which time most shops, restaurants and banks are closed.
Aristides in Mendoza City – Experience the Nightlife of Mendoza
The warm weather in the summer months in Mendoza is the perfect invitation for visitors and locals to spend long days in the sun enjoying a beer and the excellent local wine. After the sun sets in Mendoza the night life truly comes alive in Aristides Aristides is filled with bustling restaurants, pubs and cocktail lounges which offer the best of Argentinian wines and quality cuisine. This vibrant neighborhood is the perfect location for tourists to interact with locals and learn more about the local culture.
Wine and Harvest Museum – The Jewel in the Crown of the City of Maipu
The Wine and Harvest Museum is a national monument that is located in the city of Maipu in the Mendoza wine region. The history of the museum stretches back to 1896 when Gerónimo Baustista Gargantini, a Swiss immigrant, started a partnership with Juan Giol, an Italian immigrant, in the city of Maipu. Together, they established La Colina de Oro – the first winery in Mendoza.
After many years, the winery grew to include accommodation for visitors and various residences for the staff and winery owners. These buildings were designed by renowned Italian architect Manuel Mignani who gave the estate an Italian style with vast gardens.
Today, the buildings of La Colina de Oro form the Wine and Grape Harvest National Museum. The museum is open to visitors from Monday to Friday. When visiting the museum visitors can watch the winemaking and bottling process and take guided tours through the facility and the estate.
Explore the Rolling Valleys of Mendoza
The Mendoza wine region is known not just for its excellent wine but also for its incredible nature and outdoors. The countryside of Mendoza is filled with rolling valleys of incredible natural beauty. This landscape provides the perfect playground for nature lovers on the foot of the magnificent Andes Mountains.
Mount Aconcagua -The Most Famous Mountain Peak of Argentina
Mount Aconcagua is by far the most iconic peak of the Andes Mountain range in Argentina. The wonderful Mount Aconcagua attracts thousands of local and international visitors every year who are determined to climb its towering peaks. The mountain has two peaks to climb: The North Peak which is 6962 meters high and the South Peak which is 6930 meters high. Mount Aconcagua forms part of the Aconcagua Provincial Park which is open from December to March every year. When climbing the peaks of the mountain, it is necessary to stop along the way to gradually acclimatize to the height of the peak. There are various camps along the way that allow for this and provide the perfect places to rest and recharge.
Mendoza Parks and Gardens
Mendoza is not only frequented by visitors for its fantastic wine but also because of its range of beautiful parks and gardens. These wonderful attractions have given Mendoza the reputation as one of the prettiest cities in Argentina. When visiting Mendoza, the parks and gardens that should not be missed are the Plaza Espana, the Plaza Chile, the Parque San Martin, the Parque Civico, the Parque O’Higgins, and the Plaza Italia.
Reserva Natural Villavicencio
The Reserva Natural Villavicencio in the Mendoza province showcases the areas landscape, history and nature while providing visitors with a sense of adventure. The reserve was established in 2000 to preserve the natural and cultural heritage of the area and to ensure that the natural environment is sustained for the local residents of Mendoza. The park is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 11 am to 7 pm and it is suggested that visitors purchase tickets in advance. When inside the Reserva Natural Villavicencio attractions that should not be missed are the Hotel Villavicencio, the Caracoles Trail, the El Balcon viewpoint and the Cross of Paramillos. Other experiences which can be enjoyed inside the park are self-guided tours, birdwatching, 4×4 trails and dining at the in-park restaurants and cafes.
Gastronomy in Mendoza
The local cuisine of Mendoza is characterized by warm, hearty, soul warming dishes that pair perfectly with the local red wines. When visiting Mendoza be sure to indulge in the various country style dishes that speak to the warm hospitality of the region.
Asado de Tira – Roasted Meat Strips
Asado de Tira is a typical Argentinean dish of roasted beef short ribs cut in strips. The beef in this recipe is seasoned only with salt and then grilled for a few minutes. The strips of beef are crosscut so that the long strips of meat are interspersed with the bone. The shortens the tough fibers of the meat so that it can be grilled instead of slow cooked. In Mendoza, this dish is traditionally served with garlic filled chimichurri sauce and a rich local wine.
Choripan – The Ultimate Argentinean Street Food
Choripan is the most famous street food in Argentina and Mendoza. This delicious treat is a sandwich made with chorizo sausage and a range of additional condiments. These are all served together in a crusty bread bun. Choripan is most commonly served by street vendors in stands across Argentina and is best eaten on the go.
Chimichurri – The National Sauce of Argentina
Chimichurri is the most famous sauce of Argentina and is usually enjoyed with grilled steak. This sauce is made with parsley, garlic, oregano, olive oil, vinegar and hot chili flakes. Sometimes additional ingredients are added such as coriander or chopped tomatoes. Chimichurri sauce is bright green in colour and is usually served with a grilled steak but can also be enjoyed with pork, chicken, lamb, duck or fish. It is perfectly complimented by a local Malbec wine.
Most Frequently Asked Questions about Mendoza Wine Region
1. Where is the Mendoza wine region located?
Located in the northern-central part of Argentina and near the incredible Andes Mountains, Mendoza wine region has more than a thousand wineries in it. Mendoza wine region produces the majority of Argentinian wine and is one of the top destinations in New World countries.
2. What are the most famous sub-regions and appellations in Mendoza?
Mendoza wine region can be divided into five wine sub-regions: Maipu, Lujan de Cuyo, Uco Valley, San Rafael, and San Martin.
The Argentinian appellations are Geographical Indication (GI) or Denomination of Controlled Origin (DOC) and the main ones in the Mendoza wine region are Mendoza, Maipú, Cuyo, El Paraíso, General Alvear, Godoy Cruz, Guaymallén, Junín, and San Rafael.
3. What are the main grape varieties in Mendoza?
Malbec is certainly the highlight in Mendoza. Cereza and Criolla Grande are pink-skinned grapes that dominated Mendoza for generations, but most recently, grapes such as Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay are the main ones under vine.
4. What is the best wine to try in Mendoza?
Don’t leave the Mendoza wine region without trying their famous Malbec. Mendoza is considered to be one of the best places in the world producing Malbec wines, definitely worth trying.
5. What is Mendoza known for?
Besides the great wine production – Malbec included, Mendoza wine region is known for being a cosmopolitan place, with top-quality restaurants and spas, and gorgeous views of the surrounding snow-capped mountains.