Having somehow managed to spend 3 weeks in Mendoza and not visit a single winery, I finally rectified the situation today with a wine tasting trip in Luján de Cuyo.
The tour consisted of 4 wineries, the first called Achavel Ferrer. It isn't a typical winery for the area - it has a special fermentation process, using special concrete vats rather than stainless steel ones. This allows them to ferment at higher temperatures for shorter periods of time, as the concrete is less prone to changes in temperature - a temperature rise of only 1°C would kill the yeast. They only produce small amounts of wine, around 200,000 bottles a year (a medium sized winery producing a million).
Halfway through the tour we were joined by another group, of some Americans and French people. They were slightly intimidating as they obviously thought of themselves somewhat as wine connoisseurs and seemed to know all the technical questions to ask the guide. Having said that, they were quite useful later for learning the etiquette involved in the wine tasting itself! We got to try 5 different wines - a basic Malbec, a blended wine, and a top range Malbec of 3 varieties, produced from identical grapes, harvested at the same time, but grown in different soil types at different altitudes. I was surprised at how much this affected the taste!
We next went to Belasco del Bequadano. This is a larger winery, that is notable for having the only aroma room in Latin America, which consists of a large hall with around 50 stations, each with a different aroma that it can be found in wine. In the centre of the room was an informative display on soil different soil types and information about the production of corks. This was followed by a second wine tasting, and an aroma challenge, where we had to try and identify smells from the room we had been in earlier. Sadly, I discovered that I do not have a very talented nose.
We were allowed outside on the roof terrace of this winery to take some photos. The Andes were beautiful today, as it had been unseasonably cool during the week, and a fair amount of snow had fallen in the mountains.
By this time we had tried a fair amount of wine, and I was grateful that the next stop meant lunch. The winery, called Club Tapiz, also produces olive oil which has been rated the best in Argentina 2 years running, so we first tried some of that, which was delicious. Lunch itself was a 5 course affair - 2 appetisers of pickled chicken and trout ceviche, a starter of cheese salad, a massive steak for main and passion fruit ice-cream with crushed brownies chocolate and meringue for dessert. Each course of course was paired with its own wine!
Our final winery was called Corinae. It has only been producing wine since 2004, after it's French owners gave up their day jobs to move to Argentina and set up a winery. It's also quite small, but the buildings are very charming, and we were given a tour by the owner himself, who was very welcoming. It was lucky that this was the last tasting, as I think I had drunk quite enough wine for one day. That didn't stop me from purchasing a bottle here however. I think the being the final stop of the day is very lucrative as people merry on wine, who probably have wanted to save their money during the day to see what wines they would come across, finally decide to indulge in a bottle!
We were only 3 on the trip: I was joined by a British couple, an accountant and a social worker, who were touring Latin America after the girl had spent 6 months working in Colombia. They were excellent travel companions, and we talked a lot about life in the UK, which made me miss home a bit. It was nice being in a small group, and the guide was very knowledgeable and spoke English very well - we had some quite cerebral discussion over lunch about world travel, the merits of various healthcare systems and the state of the world's economies. I actually felt rather grown up and knowledgeable as I sipped my glass(es) of wine :)