Mendoza, wine capital, kingdom of the Malbec. A city nested between vineyards, olive trees and mountains, where I lived my first asado, a religion in Argentina!
A vegetarian asado
I arrived in the morning in Mendoza after a freezing night in the bus from Córdoba. I had a thermic choc on my arrival: it was 40°C here! As I am getting use to the inevitable tiredness post-long bus trip, I had planned to have a quiet day. I just had a short walk in Mendoza to get some food and stretch my legs, and spent the rest of the afternoon in the hostel’s garden hostel preparing my future itinerary in Patagonia.
Two Argentinians, Guido and Valentin and an Argentino-German, Federico were sharing a beer and some empanadas in the garden. I progressively joined their conversation and had the great feeling (and surprise!) to understand almost everything they said. It is encouraging after only two weeks in Argentina! They know well Patagonia and also gave me precious tips to establish my itinerary. They then offered to share an asado (barbecue) and accepted to adapt it with some vegetables for me, so how to refuse!
Verdict: I won’t forget soon this asado! The Argentinians are famous for knowing how to cook the meat perfectly but it’s also true with vegetables! I had never had eaten vegetables on a barbecue which were that excellent (courgettes, tomatoes, onions, pepper and egg, sweet potatoe, potatoes… a feast!)
Be careful, BIG SCOOP: I eventually even accepted – to honour Guido who had prepared the asado so well – to taste a very tiny piece of meet (the best part of it according to him!). I had not eaten any for ten years, can you imagine! I’m glad I tried it after all the things I was told about it, and I have to admit that the meat was very well cooked… but I have no regret to let the others appreciate it because I definitely preferred the vegetables!
We also tasted some excellent local wines that added to the quality of this dinner. But most of all, it’s the atmosphere of sharing and the generosity of the Argentinians that I will not forget!
Potrerillos, the Argentinian landscapes in all their splendour
Sunday 17th December 2017
After a good night sleep, we head off with Federico to Potrerillos, a lake at the feet of the Andes, which should be a nice discovery. It was the first time I could see the Argentinian landscapes as I imagined them: grandiose, impressive, majestic… and the list could go on for long!
We spent the afternoon walking there. The lake is surprisingly shared into two colours, intense turquoise blue on one side and red-brown on the edges. One part of it was dry so we could walk on it. The landscapes were lunar and arid on this area, sand was rising from the ground, and still these mountains in the background…
Back to the hostel, we shared again a very nice meal with Federico, Alice and Bruno (two French who had joined us during the asado the night before). No asado for this time but again some good wine, and the atmosphere in this hostel is truly very friendly!
Wine and olive oil
Monday 18th December 2017
Impossible to come to Mendoza without visiting the bodegas, which make its reputation! I had planned a tour with the agency Kahuak,
which combines the discovery of the two specialities of the region: the wine and the olive oil. I did this tour with a group mainly composed of Brazilians and Céleste, an adorable, cheerful and very interesting guide. And I was very happy to understand of all her explanations in Spanish!
Mendoza counts among the eleven wine capitals in the world and is especially famous for the Malbec, which is said to have found its best territory here. The Argentinian wines used to be produced in quantity more than in quality (the Argentinians even drank wine mixed with soda!) but the trend has been changing over the last twenty years, with an upgrade and diversification in the wines produced.
Human even changed nature here by bringing water from the mountains rivers, which let the vineyards blossom on this arid and desert land. Three terroirs compose the region, Luján de Cuyo, Valle de Uco and Maipú, which is the one we went to.
Our first visit was the Tempus Alba bodega, in the hands of an Italian family since three generations. In this beautiful contemporaneous frame, we discovered the place of production and conservation of the wine and then had our first tasting. I could not finish as we already had four generous glasses from the morning, but it was starting well and the Malbec already had my preference.
We then went to visit the Pasrai olive oil factory, which stands out in the region for its traditional methods and for the quality of the products (conservative free, oil pressed and put into bottles only by hand…). The tasting was delicious: we started with the “pure” olive oil (on small pieces of bread) but also tasted a lot of other savours: lemon, garlic, rosemary, oregano, dried tomatoes… I could have bought everything if it had been easier to transport!
We then left to our second bodega, Luigi Bosca, run by a family from Spanish origins over four generations. The high quality of the wines makes the reputation of this establishment. Once again, the Malbec was the one I preferred, but we also tasted a white wine and a sparkling wine that were very good!
The day ended at the Bodega Alta Vista, where we had our lunch. This establishment is set on a beautiful domain with a stunning view on the Andes from the vineyards. I was served an excellent vegetarian meal, of course accompanied with some nice wines from the house. After a last tour of the place, it was time to come back to Mendoza. The whole day was very interesting and I would like to thank again Céleste for her attention and her precious explanations!
I will never had so much wine in one day as we shared again some nice bottles with Federico, Alice and Bruno in the evening… and the very early wake-up of the following day would be difficult!
To be continued…
TIPS & PRACTICAL INFOS
Bus Cordoba – Mendoza : $1 140 – 53€ with San Juan. Tight seats and freezing bus, I don’t recommend it!
Bus Mendoza – Potrerillos : $100 – 4,70€ the return-trip with the company A. Buttini.
Hostel Lao : From $150 to $200 – de 7 à 9,40€ per night in a 4-bed dorm (price depending on the dorm as one doesn’t have lockers), breakfast included. Some double rooms also on offer. A convivial and friendly hostel, with a nice garden. Ideal for sharing with the other backpackers!
VISITS & ACTIVITIES
Wine & Olives tour with the agency Kahuak : $2000 – 98€ for the visit and tasting of three bodegas and an olive oil factory, lunch included. I would highly recommend this visit: the contacts with the agency were excellent, the guide adorable and the places visited are complementary. Ideal to combine the discovery of the vineyards and the olives of the area!