Five stunning days in Mendoza


There are said to be about 880 bodegas in Mendoza, ensuring that Argentina’s elevated western province has long been a destination of choice for wine lovers. Vineyards here range from about 430m to 2,000m altitude, and while Malbec rules the roost, an ever-growing cast of varieties such as Semillon, Pinot Noir and the Criolla grapes (principally Torrontés, Criolla Chica, Criolla Grande and Cereza) means there’s plenty for wine-curious travellers to savour beyond the headline-act red.

Whether it’s horseback riding over the Andes or matching chocolate with wine, 300 days of sun and exciting wine-related activities keep visitors returning to key wine regions Maipú, Luján de Cuyo and Uco Valley. Late summer (early March) welcomes the arrival of the Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia grape harvest festival, while in winter (peak season July to September) powder lovers can hit Las Leñas’ slopes, and après-ski on Malbec.

Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia

Mendoza: The facts

According to Wines of Argentina’s 2021 annual report, Mendoza produced 76% of all Argentinian wine across its 146,815ha, cultivating some 39,250ha of Malbec (20% of the national total). The other most widespread varieties included Bonarda (about 14,800ha), Cabernet Sauvignon (10,500ha) and the Criollas (12,500ha combined, mostly Criolla Grande).

Languid paired tasting menus have long tempted foodies, but Mendoza’s dining scene has rocketed over the past few years to claim the title of Argentina’s most diverse food region (after capital Buenos Aires). Celebrity chef Francis Mallmann (@francismallmann) has long been associated with Mendoza, his open-fire techniques creating a show of their own. While the asado (barbecue) experience is guaranteed t0 please, a new wave of chefs is captivating palates putting wine first and showcasing star local products such as heirloom tomatoes and Andean native potatoes; veggie-led menus are finally in fashion.

A slew of restaurants has opened – and not just in bodegas. The glorious Andes range lends itself to outdoor dining experiences at restaurants such as Cundo (@cundoaltamira) and Ruda (@ruda.cocina) in Uco Valley, and Chirivia (@_chirivia) in Potrerillos. But 2023’s most anticipated launch was Angélica – Cocina Maestra at Catena Zapata.

There’s more good news given that this surge in dining spots is being matched by hospitality. Recent openings include acclaimed winemaker Susana Balbo’s SB Winemaker’s House & Spa Suites in Chacras de Coria and La Morada in the Uco Valley; these offer comfy accommodation to suit all budgets.

One of the global Great Wine Capitals network and the host in October 2022 of the World’s Best Vineyards awards, Mendoza should be high on your list of must-visit wine destinations. With the five-day guide that follows, travellers can visit both traditional and contemporary bodegas while soaking up the ultimate in wine lifestyle…

Day 1: Maipú

To the south of central Mendoza city, the eastern department of Maipú is where European varieties Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec began to be cultivated in the mid-19th century, spurred on by a surge in immigration, particularly from Italy from the 1880s onwards: Maipú and Luján de Cuyo together are known as the Primera Zona (‘first zone’). While it’s usually considered that Mendoza produces mountain wines, Maipú is its lowest-elevated district, topping out at a relatively rather lowly 700m-940m above sea level.

While Maipú is often overlooked for being distant from downtown Mendoza, its quiet country roads lined with peach orchards, olive groves and vineyards are a breath of fresh air. Open farmlands mean wineries aren’t rubbing elbows; it can take half an hour to drive between them, so hire a car (Mendoza’s signage has come on significantly in the past three years), or even a driver, as taxis can be scarce. If you’re staying in Mendoza city, you can hop on the Metrotranvía tram; alight at Gutiérrez station –…

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