Wine tours have become a classic in Mendoza. Both local and foreign tourists come along to be delighted by the flavors and fragrances of this beverage. Wineries open their gates and unveil their secrets.
Mendoza is a synonym for wine. The best wine. Therefore, a visit to the province let us learn about the production of this sacred and profane beverage, always coveted by all cultures and social classes.
A few kilometers away from the capital city -in the area called Luján de Cuyo–, there are several of the most important wineries in the country. Almost all of them offer guided tours. A travel agency named Kahuak picked us up at Lodge Vistalba, where we were staying, to go around some of these venues.
Our first stop was the very coquettish Carmine Granata. This winery has been named after the Italian who founded the venue in the mid XX century. At present, his descendants have their own vineyards and continue to make fine Malbec, Pinot noir and Semillón wines. They export 85% of their production to the United States, Mexico, England and Denmark.
The visit started with the machines where the clusters are deposited as Carmine's guide explained to us the difference between processes to make white and red wine. “Grapes”, “tannins”, “fermentation” were concepts which acquired new senses as we got deep into the corridors of the winery.
Afterwards, we went down to the tunnels where the pools contain the wines for months until they reach the exact point of fermentation. The next step were the cellars, where the beverage is staged either in casks or in bottles and it becomes mingled with wood and oxygen (for between six months and two years) to exploit the entire range of primary, secondary and tertiary aromas wine has.
Of course the perfect finale to this visit was an event held in a hall decorated with cozy lights and wood where years ago there used to be a pool to keep wine for several months. Visitors taste the different varieties in this hall.
The tour continued around Vinisterra and Baudrón wineries, also located in the area of Luján de Cuyo.
We are welcomed by Juan in the former, a nice expressive guide who, as soon as he saw us enter the very modern building, invited us to sit around some high tables to taste a fine Chardonnay first and a strong-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon later.
At this winery, the main premise is that winemaking has as little technological intervention as possible. Once the grapes have been selected, they fall inside stainless steel tanks, where fermentation takes place. After several weeks, the process continues but this time inside casks made of French and American oak, where the wine is aged at the appropriate temperatures. Afterwards, it is bottled and left to rest.
Baudrón, on the other hand, is an industrial winery founded by a family of Italian and French immigrants in 1940. It exports its production to several countries such as Holland, Russia, Panama and Venezuela.
This winery has its own vineyards in the east of the province. Grapes are taken to the facilities after being selected by experts. Then they are transformed into different varieties of red and white wines.
The tour continued at Casa de Cano, an ancient colonial estancia where a “five-course” lunch awaited. Surrounded by trees, we entered the venue through a long pergola covered with grapes that plays the role of inner corridor leading to the various halls arranged for visitors.
Our group was led to a hall for twelve people, the largest one. Casa de Cano also has spaces for lunch and dinner for smaller groups and even for intimate evenings.
Our table was nicely arranged with a great variety of cold cuts, cheese, onions in Malbec and delicious countryside flavors. Even if the hearty starter had been enough to satisfy our hunger, that was just the beginning. Immediately after the “first-course”, it was time to taste some empanadas cooked in the masonry oven. As we had lunch, Diego, the young waiter, was alert to keep all glasses full with an unbeatable Malbec.
The casseroles with rice and meat followed and, later on, the delicious spaghetti with Bolognese sauce. For those who dared, a cup of ice cream and dulce de leche was the climax of this lunch which crowned a tour which unquestionably represents a festival for the most demanding palates.
Text: Pablo Etchevers
Photos: Eduardo Epifanio