Our Ultimate Guide to Argentina’s Mendoza Wine Region
Mendoza is Argentina’s most famous and most important wine region, home to more than 1200 wineries (known as bodegas locally) and responsible for the vast majority of all wine produced in the country. Covering a large area, there are a surprising amount of micro-climates and different altitudes that result in a variety of wines. Although many grapes such as cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and merlot do well it is of course Malbec that the region has become so famous for.
The history wine in Mendoza is thought to date back to as early as the 16th century when Catholic priests planted the first vines. It was not until the late 19th century, however, that wine production really took off after the introduction of a railway line between Mendoza and Buenos Aires. These days Argentinian wine can be found on the menus of restaurants all over the world.
With so many wineries and different areas to choose from, visiting Mendoza for the first time can be quite confusing. Below we have summarised the different areas and our top tips.
Lujan de Cuyo
Lujan de Cuyo is located on the Mendoza river just south of Mendoza city in a valley in the centre of the region. It was Mendoza’s first wine growing area and home to some of the biggest, oldest and most traditional vineyards. It also became Argentina’s first official appellation or denomination of origin in 1993. The river acts as a perfect source of water for irrigation and thus makes wine making possible in this otherwise dry climate. Known as ‘the land of Malbec’ its no surprise which grape does well here!
Stay: Cavas Wine Lodge for ultimate, 7 star luxury or Entre Cielos for chic modern rooms and beautiful views.
Try: Bodega Achaval-Ferrer, a cosy winery on the edge of the Mendoza river with vineyards that are almost 100 years old or Bodega Casarena housed in a restored centenary building.
The Maipu region is close to Lujan de Cuyo but just slightly south east of Mendoza city. It is a much smaller region with only about 20 wineries but some of Mendoza’s biggest names can be found in this area. We would also recommend visiting Olivícola Pasrai, an excellent olive oil factory where you can do a tasting.
Stay: Club Tapiz – a small boutique hotel located on a vineyard
Try: Bodega Trapiche, a historic winery in Mendoza or the prestigious, family owned Zuccardi Bodega
The Uco Valley is around 100km south of Mendoza city which is about an hour and a half’s drive. The vineyards in this area are planted at much higher altitudes in the foothills of the Andes. It is actually one of the world’s highest altitude wine growing areas with many vineyards planted at 1200 metres and above. Although this is high for growing wine, it is nowhere near high enough for us to experience altitude sickness. At these higher altitudes the Malbec thrives but other grapes such as Tempranillo, Pino Noir and Merlot also do extremely well. As Mendoza’s newest wine growing region it is becoming more and more popular and growing rapidly. The wineries in the Uco Valley tend to be smaller, more boutique and higher end. There are also some family business where you will likely be shown around by the owners.
Stay: Alpasion Lodge, a relatively new, exclusive hotel with just seven rooms and a familial atmosphere or The Vines, an outrageously luxurious wine resort.
Try: Gimenez Rilli, a wonderful, family fun winery or the historic Salentein which also has a superb art gallery
Chacras de Coria
Chacras de Coria is a very pretty little town located just outside of Mendoza city to the south. It is a very pleasant place to stay with some excellent restaurants and lots of smaller wineries nearby. One advantage of this area is that it is possible to visit some of the vineyards on bicycle. It is also close to the Lujan de Cuyo and Maipu areas. We recommend Lares de Chacras, a great little boutique hotel located in the heart of the town and within walking distances of some good bars and restaurants. Finca Adalgisa would also be a top choice. They have their own vineyard where they produce their own wine exclusively for guests of the hotel.
We have spent a lot of time trying out the different vineyards and wine regions in Mendoza – someone has to do it – and our favourite region is the Uco Valley. It is a little bit more remote, but worth the drive for the outstanding scenery, beautiful hotels and world class vineyards.
1) Go to Mendoza in March for the harvest festival, a lovely time to be in the region with the Autumn colours on display.
2) It’s not just all about Malbec! Make sure you try torrontes, an excellent white grape.
Other Activities in Mendoza
Apart from the vineyards there are many other outdoor activities available – perfect for working off all that wine! We can organise rafting, hiking, trips to Aconcagua provincial park, horse riding, bike tours and more. Speak to one of our specialists to start designing your perfect trip.