See Lonely Planet's recommendations for four Mendoza wineries to visit when travelling the region, from their new wine travel book, Wine Trails.
Four Mendoza wineries to visit
You’ll know you’ve arrived at Tapiz when you spot the llamas. Dozens graze in the fields around the vineyards, controlling weeds, producing fertiliser and providing wool that local artisans use to make traditional blankets and ponchos, on sale to visitors in the winery’s boutique. The picturesque llama family is a pleasingly old-fashioned counterpoint to the state-of-the-art (and sustainable) winemaking technology Tapiz employs inside. The two signature wines are Malbec and Torrontés, made with grapes harvested here, in Agrelo, as well as in the Uco Valley and further afield in Argentina’s northernmost wine region of Cafayate in Salta. They’re presided over, in part, by the world-renowned French winemaker Jean-Claude Berrouet, who works as a consultant with the brand. For a particularly memorable experience, book a tour of the vineyard by horse-drawn carriage, followed by tasting wines straight from the barrels.
www.bodega-tapiz.com.ar; tel +54 261-490 0202; Ruta Provincial (RP) 15, km 32; 9.30am- 4.30pm Mon-Fri, to 12.30pm Sat & holidays
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According to the cofounder of Bodega Ruca Malén, you don’t need to hear descriptions of his wines: you need to taste them yourself. ‘As is the case with any work of art,’ Jean Pierre Thibaud has said, ‘pleasure can only derive from personal discovery’.
Perhaps the best way to discover this particular wine experience is through a leisurely meal at the restaurant. The five-course lunch with wine pairings, served in a sun-filled dining space overlooking the surrounding vineyards, is considered one of the finest in Mendoza. A word to the wise: after indulging in a feast like this one, you might not have any room left for tasting more wine until the following day. Although the winery takes its name from an old Mapuche legend, the wine tastings and blending classes at Ruca Malén are all about modern winemaking techniques.
www.bodegarucamalen.com; tel +54 261-15 4540974; RN 7, km 1059, Agrelo; tastings 10am, 11am & 3.30pm Mon-Fri, 10am & 11am Sat
Like Mendoza itself, Catena Zapata represents an appealing balance between old traditions and contemporary winemaking. The vineyard was founded by Nicola Catena, an Italian immigrant to Argentina who planted his first Malbec vines in 1902. It later became the experimental playground for Nicolás Catena — arguably the most celebrated winemaker in Argentina — and his daughter, Laura, current president of Bodega Catena Zapata and author of the talked-about 2010 book Vino Argentino: An Insider’s Guide to the Wines and Wine Country of Argentina. Her energetic and unpretentious approach is revolutionising the face of Argentinian wines. Look for Luca, Laura’s line of small-quantity, artisanal-quality wine made from Argentina’s old vines; taste the winery’s classic Malbecs straight from the barrels or the fermentation tanks on one of several tour and tasting options for visitors.
www.catenawines.com; tel +54 261-413 1100; Cobos s/n, Agrelo; 9am-6pm Mon-Fri
Located in the Uco Valley, the Dutch-owned Bodega Salentein is as much an architectural landmark as a destination for wine enthusiasts. The main building was designed in the shape of a cross. Each of the four wings serve as a small winery with two levels — stainless steel tanks and French wooden vats on one floor, and an underground cellar for aging wine in oak casks on the other. The central chamber, or the crux of the cross, functions as a state-of-the-art amphitheatre modelled after the look and feel of a classical temple.
Check the calendar ahead of time: in addition to regular tastings, Salentein hosts a line-up of musical performances and art exhibitions in its barrel room and gallery. Where better to sample the brand’s famous Pinot Noir from the 2009 harvest? Make a weekend of it and check into the 16-room Posada Salentein. Don’t miss the fantastic Sunday asado criollo, a traditional Argentinian barbecue with a gourmet twist — the feast lasts for several hours.
www.bodegasalentein.com; tel +54 026-2242 9500; RP 89, Los Árboles, Tunuyán; 9am-5pm Mon-Sat
Reproduced with permission from Wine Trails, 1st edn. © 2015 Lonely Planet.