If you are keen to head out to visit Mendoza’s wine regions, you’ll need to get the lowdown on how to get there and explore first. There are a few ways to get out and visit wineries from the city. If you choose to stay on the outskirts of Mendoza – in Lujan de Cuyo, Maipu or the Uco Valley – then chances are your hotel will be a walk or bike ride from the closest winery, but staying in Mendoza city you’ll need to either brave the bus, bike, car or taxi to get where you want to go. Here’s the inside scoop with all the ways to explore Mendoza’s beloved bodegas.
Public buses are by far the cheapest way to go, although their span is rather limited. You can access a few wineries by public bus which are within walking distance from others: try the 850 line from the bus terminal to Agrelo and stop off at sparkling wine house Chandon (Km 29 on Ruta 15, Agrelo) where you can do a tasting of their bubbly and eat a sparkling wine paired lunch in their pretty restaurant. Next door you can visit Dolium (Km 30 on Ruta 15) a smaller winery with underground architecture where you can try wines with the winemakers or the owner. Or head to Mayor Drumond in Lujan on the same bus or the 1.19 bus where you can visit three wineries all within a stone’s throw of each other: the larger winery Luigi Bosca with its long history and good variety of wines (San Martin 2044); historic and quaint Lagarde with a handsome, old vineyard and a good restaurant (San Martin 1745); and the original garangista in Mendoza and a real gem of a character Carmello Patti (San Martin 2614) who’ll take you through his small winery and show you his press clippings with adorable pride. You’ll probably spend around $350pesos on the bus, a decent lunch and two wine tastings.
Another bus option has recently opened up and makes visiting wineries a more affordable option for many – the Bus Vitivinicola. With subsidies from the government and wineries involved, the bus costs only $150pesos and takes you door to door on a circular route between 5 or 6 wineries ensuring that you can get three visits in on the rather long day. Recommended wineries on the route are: fabulous lunch at Terrazas de los Andes, learning about llamas and tank tastings at Tapiz, or a step back in history with Clos de Chacras. This works out at around $500pesos per person with the bus, a decent lunch and two wine tastings.
The classic backpackers tour of Mendoza’s wine scene is by peddling your way between wineries in Maipu, but be warned – although the ride is flat and easy, it is hot and the trucks and lorries swinging around you makes a few of your neck hairs stand on edge, at least until you’ve had a few glasses of wine to not notice anymore.
Practically a rights of passage for budget travellers in Mendoza, getting on a bus to Maipu (take the 171, 172 or 173 from Catamarca and Rioja streets) is the first stage to the bike shop where on Urquiza street you’ll find a few different places touting their two wheelers (try Mr Hugo, $50pesos). Each bike company will give you a map, but peddling between bodegas is not that hard with plenty of signs and a couple other slightly pissed cyclists leading the way. Stop by at Familia Di Tommaso for a spot of history, Carinae for the best wine en route, Tempus Alba for a nice lunch in the sunshine and try La Rural for the impressive wine museum. After a couple stops you’ll be quite merry on the experience and the tourist police have a tendency to follow foreigner’s bikes to make sure they manage to trundle their way back to safety later in the evening.
The whole experience will set you back around $320pesos with tastings and a bite to eat.
Forget about driving yourself, it isn’t worth it. You’ll get lost, won’t be able to drink and will spend pretty much the same as a private tour. The only way to go is either by hiring a privately chauffeured car or going with a small tour group – you can check out our own recommended experiences in ‘Experience‘. The next thing you need to do is pick between Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley.
Picking a wine region to explore…
Lujan de Cuyo
One of the biggest wine production regions in Argentina, Lujan de Cuyo what locals call the ‘home of Malbec’. A large area that hosts a suburban sprawl as well as countless empty plains only populated by vines. You can reach Lujan within about a 30 minute drive from the city but some wineries are almost an hour away. Top of the list of recommendations is Pulenta Estate for its fun blind aroma guessing game and its fabulous Cabernet Franc; Ruca Malen took the crown last year (2014) for having the best winery restaurant where you can tuck into five wine paired courses; and Catena Zapata is the one all the Brazilian tourists go for and is one of the biggest household names of wine although book ahead as the scheduled tours book up quick. There are at least 30 wineries in Lujan that are worth your time so this is by no means an exhaustive list!
Valle de Uco
The Uco Valley is the word on every wino’s lips not only for its supreme quality high altitude wines but also for the awesome scenery: jawdropping mountains frame the vast vineyards and infinite blue skies – it is any oenophile’s idea of heaven. The wineries are top notch too with some of the biggest investments and ergo the most impressive architecture. Reining high in the architecture race is dutch owned Salentein with its cathedral to wine, art gallery and sculpture garden, closely followed by avant-garde O Fournier that resembles a Star Trek creation and hosts a stellar restaurant. You’ll find excellent winery lunches at wineries such as Andeluna and Finca Blousson. Or you can try more humble, down to earth wineries like family-run Gimenez Riili or the small cube shaped winery La Azul. There are less wineries in the Uco Valley worth visiting (around a dozen) but the spectacular valley is certainly worth the extra hour in the car.
Pick your own
If you want to get a little dirty and have a true harvest experience you can spend a day picking grapes followed by a hearty Argentine asado lunch experience at Zuccardi winery in east of Mendoza. You can also taste wine that has been pre-harvested, fermented and aged for you!