Located on the Argentinian side of the Andes near the Chile-Argentina border, the city of Mendoza is a large country town filled with long, leafy streets and has a quiet country feel. This is wine country- the atmosphere is relaxed and yet still very lively. The locals are often rushing about, going to work on buses and the back of motorbikes, buying groceries and everywhere, talking! Animated Spanish conversations fill your ears as you wander through a town that has a strong resemblance to Victoria’s, Bendigo or Ballarat.
As we did in Buenos Aires, we chose an Air BnB room close the the famous town park. In this case it is Parque San Martin, a huge park consisting of a large lake, running and biking tracks, areas of woodland, a tennis club, fitness centre, golf course and velodrome.
A welcome change from many of the parks we visited in Europe, was how well the park was utilised. Not just by joggers and walkers, but with a variety of sport and recreation reminding us of parks at home. We ran and walked the trails dozens of times throughout our stay and felt comfortable and safe almost all of the time. Our BnB host had warned us to stay on the paths and avoid going into the woodland where we “might see things you shouldn’t see and get in trouble for seeing them”. Well that sounds ominous!
Yet we found with so many people around, including families, we were just like the locals enjoying the outdoors and luxuriously warm climate.
As well as visiting the park each day, we also discovered the local ice-creamery and became frequent visitors. Ordering in Spanish was difficult at first, but after a while the staff began to know us and preempt our intentions! With a chocolate and nut waffle cone and 3 flavours a bargain at 20 pesos (under $3 AUD) we managed to try a variety of flavours during our visit, the most outstanding being Dulce de Leche with brownie. Mmmm.
Internationally, Mendoza is best known as the hub of Argentina’s wine country. The bodegas in the vicinity of Mendoza comprise the largest production source of Malbec wine in the world. Naturally, we sampled several Mendozan wines.
We matched a few bottles with our home cooking. Purchasing wines from the shops and finding Syrah/Shiraz and Malbec to be our favourites. We found that the quality was essentially “you get what you pay for.” The difference in quality of a 25 peso bottle (AUD $3.50) to a 60 peso bottle (AUD $9) vastly different.
We considered visiting the nearby town of Maipú where many of the wineries could be found. But it required a long trip by bus and then a bike ride along roads that were not equipped with bike lanes and in some parts unsafe. We weighed up the options and instead chose to visit a tasting room in town called Wines of Mendoza.
In essence Wines of Mendoza is a tasting room for all wines of the region. From boutique wineries, historical family run wineries, and every bodega near and far from Mendoza. It provides the opportunity for people to try wines that otherwise may not be easily accessible. We utilised half price wines during special “happy hour drinks” and went back several times for a glass of delicious Chardonnay.
One Wednesday night we also attended a “Winemakers night.”
It was more formal than we expected, with chairs and small tables facing the front and lengthly, animated discussions about each wine. The room was filled with Americans, Australians, South Africans, Brazilians and one outspoken Argentinian. The winemakers spent a lot of time speaking passionately in Spanish and the English translation was brief. We didn’t mind though because we knew enough about wine to translate parts of the Spanish description and analyse the wine ourselves. I also discovered that waiters continued to refill your “tasting glass” as quickly as you drank it! Coupled with a selection of cheese and bread, it was great value for money!