Mendoza: Wine Tastings and Tours
Mendoza is one of those places that I’ll remember with all five senses. The view of vineyards and snow-capped mountains, the feel of the sun on my skin, the clinking of glasses and cries of “salud!”, the smell of the wine as we tried to detect the flavours listed on the label, and the taste of some of the best wines in the world.
The wine poured freely everywhere in Mendoza, as though they were overflowing with it and couldn’t give it away fast enough. It started at Hostel Empedrado, where, each evening, a barrel was opened and jug after jug appeared in the dining room. On my first night there, the hostel had organised a free wine tasting. A small group of us gathered around a table and learned about the steps involved in tasting a wine (way more than just putting it in your mouth, it turns out). First, we were instructed to let the wine breathe, as our host explained what we could learn about the wine from sight alone. The thicker the membrane left on the glass, the more alcohol the wine contains, and the darker the wine, the older it is. We also learned that grapes picked later in the season contain more sugar, and therefore the wine will contain more alcohol. Although I was interested in hearing about the wine, I was more interested in tasting it. We were finally instructed to pick up our glasses, but the next step turned out to be to smell it. We were told to stick our noses right in the glasses, then swill the wine around pompously (she may not have said pompously, but it felt pompous), and sniff again. As pretentious as it seems, I really did notice a difference in the smell after the pompous swilling. Finally came the tasting, but rather than just drinking, we were shown how to move it around our mouths, then take in some air to enhance the flavour. I wasn’t a fan of swishing and slurping my wine, so instead I opted to just drink it. And then another. And then several more.
The next morning, I took the bus to Maipú, with three others from my hostel, to cycle around the vineyards. We went to the recommended Mr Hugo’s, where Mr Hugo himself greeted us with a big smile, a map of the region, and some decent bikes. We set off on the surprisingly long route to Mevi, our first bodega, where we each ordered a trio of wines to sample, and tried to remember all of the tips we had been given the night before. Try as we might, we just couldn’t detect the chocolate, oak or plum that the labels insisted were present. We stuffed ourselves with food, that was of course served with various other wines, and admired the view of the vineyard from the balcony on which we were sat. We could have easily stayed there all day, but eventually we tore ourselves away and cycled to Tempus Alba. Again we were seated on a sunny balcony, and again we sampled a trio of wines that, even though we couldn’t taste what we apparently should be tasting, we enjoyed nonetheless. We took the self guided tour to see the various stages of the wine production, before hoping back on our bikes and cycling (a bit shakily this time) to our last stop. Despite having only made it to two of the many bodegas in the area, we all agreed our last stop should be the beer garden. It turned out to be a great choice, as the refreshing craft beer proved a nice change to the sleepy red wine. We lounged in the garden as the sun went down, then did our final cycle back to Mr Hugo’s. After delivering our bikes, Mr Hugo handed us yet another bottle of wine, which we cheekily sipped on the bus back to our hostel, where happy hour was just beginning.