Everyone knows I love a glass of red.
Back home, I’ll always share a bottle with a friend, or even nurse one to myself if everyone else is on the vodkas…
But nothing comes close to the experience of drinking wine in Mendoza. The region is famous for the very delicious Malbec grape variety, and I intended to make the most of it during my six days there.
Obviously, there was the obligatory ‘wine and bike’ tour to take on first.
A guy called Hugo who rents bikes just outside of town comes highly recommended from multiple sources, but my friends and I were feeling lazy. We booked a tour through our hostel for AR$145, including transfers to the first winery and back from the last. As it turned out, there was torrential rain in the afternoon and we were very grateful for the lift.
The wine tour is a great opportunity to learn about how it’s produced and how to critique it. You also get to see a range of wineries, from organic and family run to the massive wine factories that buy expensive oak and only reuse the barrel once.
We each bought a different bottle in preparation for day 2 of drinking – the picnic.
Mendoza has a number of pleasant parks, including one massive one called San Martin. The guy in our hostel said even locals get lost there for hours. We bought a massive selection of cheeses, meats, bread and fruit and lugged it all to a beautiful lakeside rose garden in the centre of the park.
We were lucky with the weather and settled down for an afternoon of sun baking and gorging. With all the activities on offer in South America, it’s easy to forget the simple pleasures of sharing a good bottle of red with friends while laughing about the crazy encounters you’ve had on your travels.
It would have been a pleasant afternoon anyway, but we’d also managed to coincide our picnic with an open-air concert.
The next evening, the same concert was still going strong and we headed out, armed with more red, to a more central park. We met an Argentinian couple and practised our Spanish as the last rays of sun set on the horizon. They then invited us to their friends’ house to continue the party, and a couple of the guys went on a meat run, returning 30 minutes later with the biggest slabs of beef I’ve ever seen. Nothing compares to the experience of hanging out with locals, getting a taste for the local way of life.
During my time in Mendoza, I also attended a pizza party at another hostel, where I met a very quirky English girl with the best collection of travel memorabilia. She’d even taken a couple of vertebrae from a bone yard. Thinking one of them looked a bit like a smiley face, she would turn it round saying ‘Vertebrae, smiley face, vertebrae, smiley face’ over and over again.
And then there was the horse riding trip, during which a vulgar English girl managed to prompt a fake wedding and then ran off with the cowboy to consummate it in a shed! But that’s by the by. I was happy sitting with my wine glass and a massive slab of steak in some crusty bread!
All in all, Mendoza was a fantastic city to stop off in, if not for the delicious wines, then for the glorious weather and wonderful culture.