Argentine Wine Tastes Better on a Bike - My Mendoza Experience
by Bridget on November 11, 2011
I peddled as fast as I could down the dirt rode, then lifted my feet straight out in front of me and released my exuberance with a wild, “Woohoo!” I had been released, at least for the moment, from my work-a-day world into the Argentine October Spring, the fields of Mendozan grapevines, and the taste of grapes liquefied and fermented.
My four colleagues and I, all English teachers, had escaped for the weekend from our pueblos in the-middle-of-nowhere southern Córdoba to experience what we felt to be an essential part of our intercambio: the wineries of Mendoza.
We had decided to spend our afternoon on a self-guided bike tour of the bodegas of Maipú, which lie just outside of Mendoza and form part of Los Caminos de Vino. Mr. Hugo’s ( www.mrhugobikes.com) came recommended by our hostel and a ten-minute cab ride from the center of Mendoza brought us to its entrance.
The wine tasted as cheap as the plastic cups it was served in, but we were happy. We were young and free and about to explore one of the world’s most famous wine regions. We ching-chinged to Mendoza and wine with the soft thud of the plastic cups.
Considering the late hour of the day (we left Mr. Hugo’s at about two-thirty), we had to make it a highlights tour. We first found Historia y Sabores. For fifteen pesos, you could taste chocolate, marmelade, three pestos, and three sweet liquors. A better desert tour to finish off the expedition, I settled for a bar of chocolate with raisins and we moved on.
Next on our top five list we came to Trapiche, the biggest wine producer in Argentina. Libations aside, the compound, dedicated solely to the making of their specialty wines, has a beautiful rose garden, fountains, and picturesque stone structures that make the free walk a nice break from biking. The tour and tasting would cost us thirty pesos and last about an hour, twice as long as the other bodegas, so we decided to come back at 5 o’clock for the abridged tour.
To make the most of our time, we went for the long haul (all of five kilometers) to the highly recommended Bodega de Familia de Tomas. As we pulled in, the row of bikes identical to ours testified to its popularity. We chatted it up with our fellow winos exchanging names of hometowns and places visited before going in for the bilingual tasting and tour. I am no wine connoisseur, so I can only say that each sample improved on its predecessor. Satisfied with the wine, we skipped the tour and headed back to Trapiche.
When we arrived at our destination, however, another group met us at the entrance with the news that it was already closed. Argentine business practices have their pros and cons. That meant it was time for a beer. The signs for the cervecería (it bore no other name that I could find) eventually lead us off the beaten path and down a narrower road that curved behind some residences and ended at a recycled, hippie-art-decorated bar where our cohorts were already lounging in the garden. We ordered our beers and homemade empanadas, and sipped way the next hour-and-a-half in sun-and-alcohol-induced relaxation.
Shortly after six-thirty, the cerveceria began to empty out and we allowed the thought of free wine to lure us back to Mr. Hugo’s. Like all his compatriots, Mr. Hugo provides for his guests in abundance. Hardly had your cups lost an inch when he or his son was at our side ready to refill them. But wine loosens the tongue, and I found myself having a trilingual conversation with a German and Swiss while my friends engaged in a push-up competition. At eight-thirty the revelry came to an end and everyone headed to the bus stop.
We could now check “wine-tasting in Mendoza” off our Argentine bucket list. But, having devoted only half a day to the experience, we could also understand John Maynard Keyes sentiment when he said, "My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne."