andes-in-the-backdrop-of-the-uco-valley-argentina
Argentina, Food, Wine

Wine Tour: Argentina

Empty Wine BottlesSome people don’t know that I went to “wine school.” I put that in quotes as it was really hard sometimes to fully think of it as school. Yes there were final exams and yes we had textbooks, but with a full hour of wine tasting at every class, it was a lot more fun than physics or economics.  I grew up in California, not too far from Napa, where wine is a part of life. I took a few wine courses in college, as my school sat in another US wine region, the Finger Lakes.

When I moved to New York City, I knew I needed to learn more. After only a couple of months of three-hour night classes and post-work wine tastings, I received my Wines and Spirits Education Trust Advanced Certificate. I’ve not used my wine degree professionally yet (I’ve used it in real life for non-professional reasons on more than one occasion), but I did learn a ton about grape cultivation, wine making, global growing regions, and wine tasting. Some of the first blogs I ever wrote were about wine for a small wine website. Because this part of me exists, it was important for us to include a visit to a handful of famous wine regions on our trip. Being in these regions and at their vineyards, you really get a feel for the local environments and people. It actually helps when trying to figure out a bottle of wine and what it’s going to taste like.

Me in the Uco ValleyThough most Argentinian wine is from the Mendoza province, wine is made all over the country, starting in the northwest near the Bolivian border down through northern Patagonia. While Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Bonarda are the most popular red varietals, Torrontes and Chardonnay are the most popular white varietals. Malbec is the most widely known and exported wine outside of the country, and also, in my opinion, what Argentina does best.

Wine Tasting at Atamisque Vineyards in the uco valley of mendoza argentinaWith a month spent in Buenos Aires on The Trip, it was easy to sample a multitude of Argentinian wines. We’d grab a bottle at dinner, sometimes at lunch, and sometimes at our apartment. The cost was never more than $24 at a restaurant, going as low as $2 from a shop. Our local grocery store, Disco, had a pretty good selection of local wine which kept our glasses full on nights we’d cook at home or stay in for the evening. We introduced ourselves to many different Argentinian producers and varieties over our time in Buenos Aires: we learned enough to know what we like, what we don’t like, and which ones deserved more attention.

Wine Aisle at the Supermarket
Mendoza was our last stop in Argentina before heading over the Andes into Chile. We had spent our first six weeks tasting wines available at restaurants and shops, but in Mendoza we’d have to opportunity to go to a few tasting rooms and wineries. We didn’t have the budget to stay at a vineyard on this trip, but we were able to visit Vines of Mendoza in a Mendoza City, as well as take a small wine tour of the Uco Valley.

Andes as the Backdrop to the Uco Valley of mendoza argentinaVines of Mendoza is a tasting room in the city where a large variety of Mendoza wines are available. It is a great place to go if you have limited time/money and would like taste more than just the wine at the vineyards you visit. Here we tasted a few wines from the Lujan del Cuyo region as well as others from Uco Valley we would not be visiting. Malbecs from Punto Final and De Angeles scored highly with us, in addition to a Catalpa Merlot and the Mairena Bonarda.

Vines of Mendoza Wine TastingFor more information, go to: http://www.vinesofmendoza.com/

On our Uco Valley wine tour, we visited three vineyards fairly far out from the city center. Atamisque was our first stop, where a Torrontes stood out above all the reds and views of the Andes were breathtaking. Being that we visited in the winter time, the mountains were blanketed in the snow and the vines naked of leaves. The stark contrast between the white snow and dry desert floor was a unique backdrop for a wine tour. The highlight of visiting Atamisque for me, however, was a visit to the chemistry lab, where pH levels, alcohol levels, acidity, and balance are all tested. Pipettes and microscopes and beakers galore. Nerdery at its finest. I LOVE it.

Matt in the Uco Valley of mendoza argentinaAndeluna Winery was our second stop on the tour, and by far our favorite of the three. With a very well appointed tasting room, a pristinely clean winemaking environment, and stunning vineyard views, Andeluna  scored highly with its products and as well with the experience of being there. We ate a lunch of charcuterie, local cheeses, and fruits paired with a flight of Andelunas finest wines. All together, I can’t remember another winery experience that has left me feeling as satisfied and confident as this did. In fact, we are lucky enough to live near a distributor who stocks Andeluna. Since returning to NYC, we have enjoyed many bottles of Andeluna Malbec, hoping to bring us back to the cool breezes of the vineyard and the stunning views outside the tasting room windows.
Andeluna Winery uco Valley Mendoza ArgentinaThe last stop of the tour was at Salentein Winery. While Salentein is a widely known brand and is widely exported, the vineyard experience was not as enjoyable as the previous two wineries. Salentein is more of a commercial force, up there with the likes of Mondavi and Penfolds. Nonetheless, it was good to see the framework of a large Argentinian vintner as well as the beautiful grounds. It wasn’t able to stand along side Atamisque or Andeluna, however.

Wine Barrels at Atamisque winery in the uco valley of mendoza argentinaAfter six weeks of immersing ourselves in Argentinian wine, we left the country with a new love of Malbec. It did leave enough of an impression on me, a bit of a wine snoot, to knock Rioja off its pedestal as my #1 go-to red wine. It also added Torrontes to my rather short list of enjoyable and refreshing white wines. It also introduced Matt and I to our favorite wine of The Trip: Aguijon de Abeja Malbec. (Spanish for bee sting) It has a bold flavor of red berries and black cherry and a slight oaky warmth, with balanced tannins and acidity. We have purchased a few bottles online and added them to our wine collection – we have nothing but wonderful tastes and good memories associated with this wine. And with Argentinian wine in general. A new favorite together, and new favorite for me.
Aguijon de abeja malbec

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4 Comments

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  • Reply Jeff Sayre August 16, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    A small discount grocery store I shop in Lewiston, Idaho started carring some wines from Argentina and they are very good. Great article. Awesome pitures of the vineyards. The mountians are spectacular, the people who live there are very fortunate to live in view of such beauty everyday. The grapes here are just about ready to eat. Table grapes are starting to be ready to eat. The wine grapes, which are increasing in acreage are swelling up as the 100 degrees days are here and it dried out pretty well. Lewiston, Idaho was one of teh first places in Idaho to have vineyards, Italian immigrants planted them and now its catching on. They are turning out some great wines here too. On your travels, drop in and taste some. Clearwater Canyon Cellars, Basalt Cellars. Safe travels.

    • Reply annie August 17, 2012 at 6:46 am

      I would love to come to Idaho to taste wine. I love how other regions with decent grape growing weather are starting to experiment. Some great wines are yet to be discovered by the larger wine community…

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