Having run two tours in 2011, it was great to visit Mendoza again and update ourselves on the wines produced around Mendoza and in the Uco Valley. The political and financial situation has created a few issues in Argentina to say the least and despite a sound wine economy, inflation has made exports less competitive and a number of large estates have focused more on the domestic market to make up the shortfall.
Since our last tour wine tourism has continued to develop, but as ever, we achieved a series of personalized visits that really got under the skin of the state, meeting owners and winemakers and benefiting from their passion and insight.
As in Chile we saw plenty of investment in modern winemaking facilities, but in both countries it was interesting to see in addition to the shiny stainless steel, a return to concrete as a relatively inert, but ‘breathing’ medium in which to ferment and mature wines. We also noted a rise in the use of the ‘concrete egg’ – a shaped vat that creates a constant momentum for the wine. A lot of wine makers all over the world are trialling and making wines with this type of vat with great success.
As most people know, Argentina has made the grape Malbec its own, and we tasted a number of fabulous examples of this exciting grape, which benefits most from high day temperatures and cool nights and a long growing season that Mendoza’s high altitude affords. Whether Malbec, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon or many others, red grapes far outnumber white, but Torrontes continues to be a shining light of cooler climate production and we tasted some excellent Viognier and Chardonnay.
At almost every winery we visited the most animated discussions concerned the Uco Valley. The best fruit is being produced in this cooler Valley, with its combination of high altitude, well drained soils, unlimited Andes water for irrigation and lots of sunshine, and the fruit for the top wines of many estates is being sourced here. One particular development since 2011 was at the tiny bodega Azul. Since we were here last they have substantially increased the number of hectares under vine with the vast majority being supplied to some of the biggest wineries. Azul is in the incredibly fortunate position of having a long standing fruit business in the Uco Valley and have been able to convert orchards to vineyards without paying an absolute fortune for the land!
Mendoza remains a great place to be based for wine tourism – a handsome city, very much a place of commerce and business and the culinary scene continues to be innovative and exciting. With the Andes always in view, Mendoza is a very attractive place to stay.
During our tour we visited the following wineries – see the blog for more information on each: