We touched down in Mendoza after a short flight from Santiago, the kind of trip where getting through airport security and customs takes twice as long as your air time. Roxy’s parents had flown in from Canada for a break from winter, and we were fortunate enough to join them for a break from hostels, $3 wine and meals cooked on a camping stove. The four of us spent a week in Argentinian wine country, starting in the Uco Valley and then moving on to the Luján Valley.
Of course a trip to wine country is purely for educational purposes so we started off with a day of Wine Camp. This was more or less a crash course into wine making, something I desperately needed in order to be able to add something more to the countless tastings to come other than “Yum, better than the boxed stuff!”
Knowledge demonstration time. The Uco Valley is at a higher altitude than most wine growing regions, providing a climate that produces a more robust grape, due to its need to handle the elements. Growing techniques and tannins aside, this meant we were closer to the mountains and had ridiculous views throughout our sunny days and amazing sunsets at the end of them.
Of course, this being Argentina, we were served more red meat than we could possibly wash down with vino. Eventually we learned that you need to eat a tiny lunch in anticipation of an asado dinner, or be prepared to ignore everything amazing on the dinner menu and go with mixed greens because you’re still so full from lunch that you were barely able to get up for dinner.
Not sure if Argentinians even care if it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, but our first tasting was usually at 11am and there was always a group on their way out as we rolled in. Our next tasting was only delayed by our commute and a stop for lunch which, you guessed it, was accompanied by wine. We did take a short break from the red wine one afternoon to learn how to make empanadas, and drink white wine. Roxy showed a knack for folding perfect empanadas, even impressing our instructor. I showed a definite knack for staring at them cook in the wood fired oven and for eating more than anyone else, although the instructor didn’t seem to find this as impressive as I did.
We didn’t change up our routine at all but after a few days we changed locations and headed two hours north to the Luján Valley. Fun fact, they also grow grapes there and also turn those grapes into adult fruit juice.
We checked out more wineries each day. Getting to tour the facilities, learning about the history of each winery and their different wine making techniques. Capped off with a tasting session. We learned a ton and despite the overwhelming number of things to consider when tasting, the sommeliers all seemed to agree that “there is no right answer”. Now that’s my kind of test.
Now like I said at the start, visiting wine country is an educational experience. Each glass we tasted (chugged) was strictly in the name of science, so here a few things we learned. Feel free to repeat them at your next fancy party, just make sure you are swirling your wine glass at a minimum of 30rpm and end every sentence with “I’m getting hints of tobacco and cherry” or no one will believe you.
– Growing grapes at high altitude allows wine makers to produce grapes with tougher skin. These grapes develop stronger tannins and more intense colour thanks to intense sun exposure.
– Hail can cause costly damage to vineyards resulting in the loss of an entire vintage. Some wineries will invest in hail cannons in hope of saving their previous crops. We heard a cannon go off one night wondering what the heck it was. They aren’t quiet… they send a 200 mph shockwave towards to storm thinking that it will disrupt the hailstones as they’re forming.
– There are roughly 600-800 grapes per bottle of wine
– Wine legs represent the amount of alcohol present in a wine
We ended our trip with a sunset horseback ride around some vineyards. It was amazing, as was the entire week and we felt incredibly fortunate to have been able to spend a week with Roxy’s parents. Quite fittingly my horse was named Patagonia which is where our next blog post will be from!