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Published: April 21st 2008
Ah Mendoza, the heart and soul of Argentina's wine country. We have been really looking forward to visiting here and not just for the vino collapso. hic.
On the way to Mendoza we stopped for a couple of nights at a town called Rosario, which lies on the banks of the muddy Rio Paraná. The town's main claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of Che Guevara, as you can see from our most exciting photo to date of Karen standing in front of the house he was born in. Not much else to report from Rosario. So back on the bus to our next destination.
As soon as we arrived in Mendoza, we both liked the vibe. The first thing we loved about Mendoza was its tree lined avenues full of street-cafes and bars. These make lovely shadey spots for chilling out and watching the world go by. And much to Karen's delight, in Argentina the cafes serve tea, unlike the coffee swilling Brazilians. We stayed in a fantastic hostel that we would recommend to anyone going to Mendoza - Hostel Lao. The spotless rooms were funkily decorated with the owner's travel photos and the staff
Bodega La Rural
The keen eyed amongst you may also note Karen's new flip flops. Long may they live.
here were really friendly and helpful, it also has a lovely garden for relaxing in after a hard day's wine tasting. hic.
And so to that wine. hic. To see the famous vinyards and visit the wineries we opted to go by bike. Mostly because we thought this would be fun, but also because then we could choose which wineries to visit by ourselves (not as part of a tour) at our own leisurely, wobbly pace. Oh and its also quite a cheap option. hic. The bike rental company gave us a helpful map which lists all the nearby wineries and off we set. Thankfully there wasn't too much cycling required between the wineries which was just as well as the bikes were pretty old and lacked padded saddles - ouch. We have tried to remember a few of the names of the wineries or bodegas we liked, so look out for these plonks (all red) next time you're in Tesco's. So first stop was to Bodega La Rural, a lovley little vinyard that houses a museum of ancient machinery, carriages, tools, barrels and lots more bits and bobs used to make wine in ye olde days. All very
interesting, especially seeing the process from the grape growing in the fields to the final bottled product. They produce a cheeky Malbec, that apparantly is exported, called Felipe Rutini Malbec 1997. hic.
Or favourite bodega, not least because you can taste A LOT there, was Tempus Alba. We quaffed a range of wines from their bog standard Syrah to an easy drinking Cabernet Sauvignon. But easily the best wine we have ever tasted was Tempus Pleno 2003. Mmmm. We stayed at this vinyard the longest, it was lovely to sit in the tasting bar overlooking the vinyards and by this time our numb bums really needed a rest! Also we were becoming quite the tasting experts by now. Hic, so here is our guide to tasting plonk:
1) Place your glass at angle over a white surface in order to observe the colour intensity, tones and shades. The colour will give you information about the age of the wine.
2) Time for your first sniff. From the first nose you can smell the floral aromas, the fruit, spices and wood among others.
3) Next swirl the wine around in your glass (just like Oz). The fluidity of the
Tony takes step 2 a step too far.
wine is reflected in its stickiness/viscosity. You can see this by watching the wine dribble back down into the glass once held still, you can then see what is known as the 'tears' or 'legs' of the wine. So the more slowly and sticky the dribbles the better the wine. Thus to appear like you know what you are doing say 'hmmm this wine has good legs!'
4) After the swirling get your nose back in the glass for another whiff, this time you should be able to smell the aromas with more intensity, reflecting more specifically the type of grape and quality of wine.
5) Now you finally get to taste the good stuff, none of that spitting out malarky. Take a slug, keep it in your mouth in order to analyse the aromas and taste. Then swallow.
6) Repeat step 5 until bottle is finished
7) Remember not to drink to much as it is a long way to peddle back home. Hic.
Throughout our time in Argentina Tony has increasingly partaken in the drinking of vino tinto along with Karen. This has been a surpise to both of us and a welcome one at that. It
Bikes and Wine
Karen leaves a trail of devastation behind her.
must be the fine standard of wine, the climate, the atmosphere or some other factor but Tony now enjoys supping a fine red almost as much as Karen.
One evening in the hostel garden, while practicing steps 1-7 with our favourite bottle of Malbec, we met a couple of Irish lads, one of whom had a guitar. A spontaneous jam ensued with an american guy joining in on his mandolin. So we spent a lovely evening chilling out enjoying the great music. Tony had a wee shot too. The lads told us that a few people at the hostel were all going to some kind of outdoor gig being held later that night. So we decided it would only be rude not to tag along with our new friends. It turned out to be a massive rave type thing with a couple of thousand folk in attendance, so a fab night/morning was had by all, lots of dancing under the stars etc.
One of our favourite places to sit and enjoy the sun in the city was the Plaza Independencia, a big park with gorgeous fountains and trees. Most evenings there is a market here too with lots
I think they knew we were coming
of hippy types selling their wares, once again we could have bought lots of trinkets to take home but we managed to restrain ourselves.
We did make one purchase in Mendoza, we had been planning on doing some camping in Argentina's Lake District and Patagonia so after much research (Tony dragged Karen round EVERY outdoor shop in the whole city), we bought a tent. A lovely orange number for two, a wee gas stove and some pots, all for a good price, thanks to Tony's haggling. So to test it all out we had a few nights camping just outside the city. Anther great thing about Mendoza is that you only need to go 5 minutes out the city and you are surrounded by mountains and green areas. The campsite was perfect for our first trip.
Karen also plucked up enough courage to get her hair cut in Mendoza. Most people back home will know that Karen has been going to the same hairdresser, Stan since she was about 13 years old. In the past Karen has not coped well with any deviation from her 'usual' style. So after speaking to some local lasses they all recommended a
salon in the centre of town. Unfortunately it was a traumatic experience again. The 'haircut' took less than 10 minutes. The result was less than satisfactory to say the least. Tony was shocked to see Karen so soon, and promptly sent her back to get the job finished. After a change of stylist and some more chopping Karen finally got a haircut she was happy with. Maybe she will have to grow her hair afterall : ( No such problems for Tony whose beard grows ever longer.
We stayed in Mendoza for around a week and enjoyed this extended stop a great deal. It was fab to relax and really get to know the place, the people and erm...the wine. Definately our favourite city so far.
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