Mendoza is known to be the best wine region in Argentina, are our aim was to find out if that was true…
In the shadow of the Andes mountains, Mendoza has a continental climate with some of the hottest and driest conditions in the world. Days are warm and sunny, and nights are cool and clear. It experiences on average 320 days of sunshine a year, and around 200mm of rainfall annually. Disease is rarely a problem and, so long as you have water, you can produce quality wines with ease and relatively cheaply. Irrigation channels were created long before the first vines were planted. The native Huarpe people created pre-Columbian canals to bring water from the Andes mountains and its rivers to the flat, fertile land of Mendoza in order to cultivate their own crops. When the Spanish missionaries arrived, they were able to use the ancient acequias (waterways) to cultivate vines and continued to expand the irrigation system over larger distances (Source: http://aroundtheworldin80harvests.com/2016/11/15/uco-valley-guide-terroir-wines-winemakers-wine-region/).
We started by exploring two wineries making champagne or sparkling wine, the first one was Chandon
The big difference in making sparkling wine compared to regular white and red wine, is that the sparkling wine goes through to fermentation processes, where regular wine only goes through one. The second fermentation process, is important for the creation of the bubbles.
At Chandon they use Chardonnay grapes to make their sparkling wine, and for the rose sparkling wine they add a little bit of Pinot noir grapes to get the right color (upper right picture)
The second one was Cruzat. We just showed up without a reservation, and were lucky, that a big group just had left, and the employee arranged a personal tasting just for us on the outside patio. We quickly found out, that reservations for wine tasting here in Mendoza is very important. At a winery called Ruca Malen we showed up without a reservation, and asked for a tasting only (no tour) by the gate. They told us that everything was fully booked, and we didn’t even made it through the gate, and turned around. So make reservations before you go. If you can plan 2-4 days ahead, you are more like to have success.
Tasting on the patio. We really liked the tasting here, due to the knowledge of the employee, and we also decided to buy one bottle of their sparkling wine
Great sparkling wine – CRUZAT
In Cafayate we didn’t really liked the red wine we tried, so here in Mendoza it was time for red wine tasting, maybe we would have better luck here. Mendoza are more famous for their red wine, due to the lower altitude the climate are better for growing red grapes, and making amazing red wine. Well, lets see how amazing it really is. Mendoza produces over 70% of Argentina’s wines, making it the largest wine region in South America. It is, in fact, one of the largest wine regions in the world. Mendoza has more vineyards planted than all of South Africa‘s wine regions put together.
Meet Carmelo Patti
Carmalo Patti immigrated from Italy in the 1950’s, when he was only 1 year old. Since arriving in Mendoza, he have spend his whole life learning and making wine. At the age of 19-20 years he worked at small and medium wineries, where he learned all the aspects of making wine, since these placed allowed him to do everything. In his 20’s Carmelo Patti worked as a consultant for 15 wineries telling them about the best way to make the most of their wine yards, and to make better wines. Carmelo Patti believes in wines with soft tannins, which is a trend adopted by the trade today. He choses a malolactic fermentation: “I make wines with classic style, a naked wine, with nothing to hide, and I look for a good balance of wine and wood”. Today the Carmelo Patti winery produces an average of 65 thousand bottles per year. Carmelo Patti makes some of the top wines in Mendoza. The visit here was filled with passion and love.
One of the days with wine tasting we finished at Bodegas Lopez
Bodegas Lopez is one of the wineries, where you can just show up, and enjoy the wine. They also have tours at the winery, but we just went there for the wine tasting. One free tasting per person, and then you can buy wine by the glass, which we did. It was big glasses, and since I was the drive, Esben got more than he could handle. He “napped” for 3 hours after the tasting. Bodegas Lopez have 3 different lines of wines: (1) Gran Reserva Wines, (2) Classic Wines and (3) Varietal Wines. Then they also produce sparking wines and a sherry wine. We picked a glass of the Chateau Vieux Red Wine Grand Reverva and the Montchenot Red Wine Grand Reserva. What characterizes these two wines, is that they are a bend of different grapes. The Chateau is a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir, with great predominance of the first one. The Montchenot is a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec, with great predominance of the first one. Both wines are aged in French oak casks with a capacity between 5,000 and 20,000 liters. After 8 years the Chateau is bottled ready for tasting and Montchenot after 10 years. The different blend of the grapes adds to the wines complexity when you drink it. A good rule is to keep the wine in your month for 5 seconds before dinking it or spitting it out. Red wines is still not our favorite wine, but the taste impression from the two red wines was amazing. We found, that the more complex wines were the most interesting.
This winery was founded in 1898, and today it is still managed by the third and fourth generation of the founding family, under the presidency of Mr. Carlos Alberto López. The founder, José López Rivas, was born in Algarrobo (Málaga), Spain, where he devoted himself and his family to vine and olive growing. The family immigrated to Argentina in 1886, and settled down in Mendoza in 1898.
In the Mendoza area you find three famous valleys: Maipu, Luján de Cuyo and Uco. Of the three valleys Uco is the newest, and located further south than Maipu and Luján de Cuyo. The Uco valley only produce 8% of all wine in the Mendoza area. The primary production of wine comes from regions just east of Mendoza, like San Martín, Rivadavia, Lavalle and Junín. They are hotter regions known for making bulk and table wine. So to experience higher quality of wine, you should focus on the valleys Maipu, Luján de Cuyo and Uco.
The winery was founded in 2000, and was built so that the wine-making process would work by gravity. In the left picture you see the area, where the trucks can load of the grapes into the big barrels. IN the Uco valley the altitude reaches up to 1700m (compared to 800m in Maipú for example), the temperatures can be more than 10°C cooler in the day than in Mendoza. And the temperature at night is usually at least 15°C less than the daytime temperature. This wide thermal amplitude gives Uco Valley wines an intensity of color, phenolics and tannin, while retaining the grapes’ natural acidity. And it is the acidity resulting from the altitude that is key to the character of Uco Valley wines, and what differentiates them to other Mendoza wines (which are all rich in colour and tannin).
The main area with the big barrels, where the premium wine in made in oak barrels, and the second and third line are made in stainless steal or concert vats with a total capacity of 1.2 million liters. This is where the fermentation process takes place.
After the fermentation process the wine is stored in 250-500 liters barrels to age (80% are made of French oak and the rest of American oak)
The barrels are stored in an underground cellar which can contain up to 2,800 barrels, where the temperature and humidity are strictly controlled
After the tour we went for the tasting, our guide was skilled (also spoke good English), and the tasting was very interesting
Mendoza has more to offer, than wine tasting. So check out the next post, where we are enjoying the local cuisine