Mendoza: Wineland (2)

Posted on June 15, 2011

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If Cafayate was merely a starter in terms of our delving into Argentina´s wine region, then Mendoza was a main course to die for.

It is barely worth mentioning the few hours we spent between overnight buses waiting in Tucuman, a city with nothing to offer travellers. The hours were wasted playing pool and snooker in a local man´s club. The only sight of note was a minor protest in front of a government building in the main plaza, where a small gaggle of protestors hurled oranges whilst police looked on nonplussed.

After a long, comfortable bus journey, during which we were provided with hot food and a glass of wine, we arrived in Mendoza and lugged our bags around town looking for a hostel. The place seemed attractive yet generic, though we were soon to discover it was the areas surrounding the city that were the reason the place has become so popular with gringos.

We eventually checked in to Hostel Empedrado, and this proved to be a real find. Along with all the usual hostel amenities, it offered a free glass of wine a day, one free international call a day, a pancake breakfast and a social atmosphere that I had struggled to find in other hostel´s throughout the continent. After spending the afternoon reading on the sunny roof terrace, we socialised that night with a good value tapas and wine-tasting session laid on by the hostel. With a good mixture of English, Aussies and Dutch staying and a New Zealander on the staff it promised to be an entertaining few days.

The next morning we took a 45-minute local bus to Maipu, the wineries town on the outskirts of Mendoza. We hired bikes from the friendly Mr Hugo, who sent us off on our journey with a promise of unlimited free wine when we returned (he kept his promise). We managed to visit a disappointingly small amount of actual bodegas, accidentally stumbling across a couple of olive oil producers on the way. One of these did at least yield a free lunch of various pastes on bread, as well as a tiny taster of locally produced whisky and absinthe. After indulging in Mr Hugo´s free but barely palatable vino, we returned to Mendoza for more wine-tasting and tapas at a plush hotel in the city. Again, it was a large sociable crowd, and at the culmination of the session we ended the night at a local bar.

After spending the next day reading and resting, and yet again cooking cheap but excellent store-bought steak for dinner, we once again returned to Mendoza and Mr Hugo to complete our tour of the wineries. We were more successful this time, as we had planned the route better, and managed to take in more bodegas and tastings. Then it was once again but to the hostel for an asado (barbeque) dinner, and more socialising. A final day of relaxation followed before I caught my overnight bus to Cordoba, knowing that though culturally my last few days had been a bit of a whitewash, they had certainly been the best of times.

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Posted in: Experience, Travel