Mendoza, Argentina
Saturday, March 2, 2013

It was still well before noon when our group were first dipping our noses into a Malbec rose at a family run vineyard on the outskirts of Mendoza city.

In between the three wineries we visited until the early afternoon our transport was on two wheels (per person). The bike rides were on a mixture of main road and glorious leafy backlanes.

The vineyards were each different in scale. Number One was an Organic farm, Two a larger operation that recently won an International Award, and Three somewhere in between.

Number One had interesting methods of farming without pesticides (though this probably just shows my ignorance). They have “indicator” plants, so if pests do attack – the effects can be spotted. Fruit trees are dispersed amongst the vines as a more tempting option for insects than the grapes. Olive trees act as a wind barrier, and horses are employed to reduce machinery use.

They kept output fairly low, and used traditional methods of production. All labels are put on by hand, to again reduce machinery dependence. In the Tasting Room, our guide explained how they exported a lot to different countries (USA, Holland, Taiwan etc.). Exactly the same wine went into each bottle, but the labels were drastically different so they could resonate with the local consumer.

Amongst the collection, she picked out and talked us through their different ranges the winery made. Malbec was popular, though her favourite was when it was blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. The shop also sold olive oils, jams, and other delicacies.

Next stop was Number Two.

This was a much more industrial scale winery. The building was very sleek, modern, and looked out across their hectares. We were once more talked through the wine making process (some of it is being to stick now), though their equipment and logistics were much grander.

For the tasting we went up to the leather sofas and were talked through the method for “fully appreciating” what we held in our glasses. Looking for the colour, the primary smell, the swill, the secondary smell, the sip, the savour, the gulp. I’m not sure if it’s because the stuff was good either way, but it did taste nice. Once we got around to the gulp…

With this it was back on the saddle to Number Three.

Here there was no messing around: “take a seat and here’s your glass”. Our guide was very fun and got everyone involved trying the different tipples. She explained how 2004 was “a great year” for the Malbec Reserve. We all concurred. To have the 2007 vintage was simply unthinkable.

Within the group were 6 middle-aged Brazilians who ensured they got their money’s worth. Whenever the guide’s back was turned, they topped up on the Merlots, Chardonnays and Syrahs.

On the bus back, it had taken its toll. In a brilliantly entertaining half an hour they were singing, dancing, walking down the aisle, and encouraging our driver to turn up the radio. It was great fun. One of the guys was practicing his English, but a bit like someone pulling the cord on Woody from Toy Story, he got stuck saying: “Life is wonderful. Life is wonderful” which the English speakers found especially amusing.

Unfortunately the party had to finish once we got to our hostel back in town, but we left the Brazilians in high spirits, and sorted out things before 11.7.3.

Grapes

Cycling

Describing wines

Same wine, different labels

Take your pick

Posh tasting room

Bikes and bus

All bottles labelled by hand

Fields of grapes

Wine Chat instructions