The Spanish conquistadores planted wine to South America, although what was produced then hardly resembled the Cabernet-Sauvignons or Malbecs that are nowadays so famous in international wine circles. During the immigration boom in the 19th century, Italian, French and Spanish settlers brought their knowledge and best grapes to Argentina and started growing wine in the west of the country.
Even then, the wine produced in Argentina and Chile was sold only on the domestic market. Only the last decades saw Argentinean wines compete successfully globally. Now in the area around Mendoza 70% of Argentina’s wine is produced.
The famous “Bodegas” are on the outskirts of Mendoza, for example in Maipu or Lujan, with Maipu being closer and easier to reach by public transport. The thing to do is to take a public bus to Maipu, rent a bike and then tour the various bodegas. There are a few bike rentals near the bus station nearest to the bodega area.
Our first stop was at Bodega La Rural, which is even in walking distance from the bus station. They offer a free tour through their excellent little museum and also a free tasting. This is an industrial business with 255 hectares and so we left soon to fine something cosier.
At très chic Tempus Alba, only a little more modest in size, we had an informative introduction to their red wines. Tempted by the impressive presentation, we decided to sample their whole range of 6 red wines and a rosé which enabled us to compare all the famous red wines of Argentinean in one go: a Malbec Rosé, a Merlot, a Tempranillo, a Syrah, a Malbec, a Cabernet Sauvignon and last but not least, a cuvee, their best wine. This sampling was surely not cheap but we enjoyed the best ones we tested that day.
Our last stop was Vina de Cerno, a quaint family-run winery, but unfortunately, we found the wines mediocre. We then decided to quit, since were we feeling the effects.
All bodegas close around 05:00 pm, which is a real pity, because we personally do not really enjoy tasting wine during the heat of day. Considering that in Austria red wine is mainly consumed during the cooler season, it felt even stranger! All in all, it was a nice experience but we prefer sampling wine at small winery in Austria or France, where nobody would dream of charging you for it and you can choose the time of your visit. On the other hand we perfectly understand that the bodegas started charging lately, because bodega tours have become an integral part of the rapidly growing tourist industry here.
Unfortunately, the wine offered at the bodegas where we went was simply overpriced! So we decided against purchasing from the bodgas, what we would rather do in Europe. Instead we shopped at the various supermarkets in the city centre, where you almost always find a wide range of wine at extremely attractive prices. And what we can say after about two months in Argentina: wines here are good or even very good and much cheaper than in Europe, not to talk about the USA!