Malbec in Mendoza

7-12 January 2017
travellingross rating = 5/10
Mendoza is hot, rough and loves the fact that they are a developing wine district of the world. I did not realise that their claim to wine fame has only been the last couple of decades or so. But it was famous enough for me to be here. On a whim. One of my randomest yet. Thinking that I would do a January ski trip, following my Perth break, I had to scramble for an alternate plan when that did not come to fruition. It’s the time of year to visit Patagonia, so I thought why not and I’ve wanted to see this epic glacier down there. How hard can it be? But first I need somewhere to chill. Easter Island. But it was impossible to find a flight to the island. Lots coming back but none going in. Ok. Mendoza. Who doesn’t love a wine region?? So after a quiet, productive, ‘New Year, New Me’ work rotation, I left site relaxed and completely unready for what I was about to do.
It took ages to get to Mendoza, via Guyana and Panama and Santiago in Chile. The latter I was shocked that I had to pay a visa fee of $117 USD just to transit through the country. Not a good 1st impression Chile. Especially given that I already had to pay $100 USD for the privilege to enter Argentina thanks to Australia charging these 2 countries a fee for their nationals to enter ours. All leaving a bad taste in my mouth and this was the first moment of many during this trip when I questioned “why I am here?”
I jumped into what I’m sure was an unregistered taxi and we sped across town to my Airbnb apartment that I had booked 2 days ago. We got lost. Yep there are two Lamadrid streets in Mendoza. And Mr Taxi took me to the wrong one (no Uber here yet unfortunately). Once I did get to my apartment I was happy that it was a passcode entry and I did not have to talk to a single human being to check-in. A bottle of wine greeted me on the table and I was impressed with this loft apartment.
Over the next few days, I went on two different style of wine tours. One to Luján de Cuyo where we visited Dominio del Plata, Matervini, Caserena (lunch) and Mendel (for $170 USD through Trout and Wine). And another bicycle tour to the farther out Valle de Uco (for $150 USD through Mendoza Wine Bike Tour). The first could’ve been done by anyone and nothing amazing. The bike tour was memorable and I highly recommend for something different and to immerse yourself in the region. But it is for the fit who don’t mind the sun.
All the wineries give very long tours of their fermentation and process. 45 mins. Before you do the tasting. Boring when the process is all the same and they act like their winery is unique. Or maybe I just found it boring cause it lacked the awesome people who I normally do wine tours with. The lunches though are incredible and they do not hold back on the wine or the food. Pairing the wine with food is what they do best. I also learned something new – rinse the glass between tastings with a cheap table wine, not water.
Overall, Mendoza is not a very attractive city, quite dirty and chaotic. I think when the mountains are visible it might be more scenic. Out at the wineries it can be pretty, but not jaw dropping. And Spanish speaking would change your whole outlook. I tried to call a taxi and they only speak Spanish; that’s when I realised my Spanish is so pathetic I can’t even order a cab. Luckily I was able to message the Airbnb host to ask her to order a taxi to my dinner reservation at 1884 Francis Mallmann, which was rated as one of the best restaurants in Latin America and it was deluxe. So personally, I would not recommend it compared to the great wine regions of the world. And I got a terrible head cold a day after arriving (thanks 24 hour airline travel!), which I could not shake even with copious amounts of wine. I realise this prolonged it. I just like to point out that I am a trooper who does not let a head cold get in the way of a travel experience.
I would not recommend the Airbnb apartment. Lovely place with everything you could need and perfect host all for $77 per night. But the location is a bit boring. Sure… it’s an 8 minute walk to a street full of restaurants, but no shops or hotels to grab a cab. And the loft bedroom was hotttttttttttttttttt. Not in a good way, just sweaty and stifling.