(The Independent) Argentina’s wine-making capital Mendoza (the name of the city and the province) is a welcome indulgence at any time of year. Dozens of bodegas(wineries) open their cellar doors year round to offer up tastings, paired lunches or picnics among vineyards, many in the shadow of the Andes’ handsome peaks.
Besides its wine-making heritage, Mendoza – officially one of the world’s great wine capitals – has also played its part in Argentina’s history: General José de San Martín led his Army of the Andes across the mountain range from Uco Valley, helping Chile to gain independence from the Spanish in 1817.
This small city bustles with activity except during lunchtimes, when it winds down for a siesta. It makes a good base for a night before venturing out into wine country proper, between 20 and 90 minutes’ drive from the city depending on where you’re headed. Enjoy leafy squares such as Plaza España or Plaza Chile, or check out Parque General San Martín, named after the aforementioned military hero. As for a first foray into malbec on home turf, book a tasting at Mendoza Wine Room.
The province divides up into five main wine-producing regions: Zona Este and Maipú, which both house centenary bodegas; Luján de Cuyo, known as malbec heartland; Uco Valley, which is closest to the Andes and is the current hub for winemaking innovation; and San Rafael, a three-hour drive south of the provincial capital. Guided winery tours and tastings across all price points are well organised, and most require reservations; roll up unannounced and you might not make it past security at the front gate. Able to keep your balance while sampling vino tinto? Try a bodega-and-bike tour in Luján de Cuyo or Uco Valley with Mendoza Wine Bike Tour.