On Tim’s first rtw adventure four years ago, he went wine tasting by bike in New Zealand. From the moment he told me about it, I have dreamt of doing the same. So we couldn’t resist a quick trip into Argentina to sample the delights it has to offer.
We found a nice hostel on the outskirts of town, big double room with private bathroom and TV. Reasonably priced and with breakfast included, we thought it was worth the extra effort of getting into town. And having seen the town, I think we were right. Not that it isn’t a nice town, it is. But it’s not a patch on its surroundings and as we planned to cook for ourselves, the suburbs were perfect – especially as it was so close to the bus station which gets you to Mr Hugo’s to rent bikes.
Getting the bus on the first day was difficult. We’d been in Chile for about a week and because we couldn’t understand a thing they were saying, we’d let our Spanish slip. We found the right bus and approached it with an eager smile and a note but we were just as quickly ushered away. We had no idea why. Fortunately the girl at the tourist information booth spoke English and told us we needed coins so we headed to a shop to buy something and get change. It was not simple as no one gives out coin change. Confused we headed back to the information booth where she told us we couldn’t get coins (something we knew by this point) and directed us to a place where we could buy a red card (a swipe card that you top up to travel). We got lost and headed back to her again. This time she came with us and took us to the confectionary shop just outside the bus stop. Here we bought our travel cards and we were on our way.
Arriving at Mendoza we saw Mr Hugo’s bikes out of the window and got out. Mr Hugo was a charismatic man who called his daughter to speak English to us. We were told everything we needed to know, handed a map and provided with a bike each courtesy of Mr Hugo himself. Then we set off.
We only had four hours as they all close at 6pm so we decided to miss the oil factory and the wine museum and headed in the opposite direction to three of the biggest vineyeards. I wish I could remember what they were called but unfortunately I drank a few too many bevvies and forgot. We visited three, the first of which had the best food menu but you get money off at the other two with hugo’s bikes. By the time we realised that was the best one though they’d stopped serving food (they all seem to stop serving half an hour before closing time) so we headed back to cook some food for ourselves.
The next day we didn’t fancy drinking any more wine so we decided to go on a sunset horse ride followed by a BBQ. This is a tour that’s advertised in all the hostels and is well worth the pennies. Not only was the ride fun, comfortable (for some reason horses in Bolivia aren’t comfortable?) and beautiful but the BBQ was perfection. When we got back they plied us with a never ending supply of wine, this was followed by some of the best meat I’ve ever eaten, alongside salad, bread and sauce. We loved it.
It was not the best idea before our final day of wine tasting. Still it didn’t stop us and armed with a bottle of cold fizzy drink we boarded the bus once more. Mr Hugo recognised us instantly despite how busy his shop was and welcomed us with a warm smile and lots of Spanish words. We muddled through a bit but he got his daughter to make sure we all knew what was actually going on. We were grateful because our translation skills were still not up to scratch.
We set off and this time headed to the oil factory, mainly due to its promise of olive oil tasting which we were fairly sure would come with bread. We were not ready for wine. It did have bread and crackers and olive oil and balsamic vinegars and olive pastes and olives and jams. It was amazing. But they didn’t stop there, they had a range of spirits and liquors for tasting. We chose the mildest ones we could muster and set off to the next vineyard feeling slightly better but incredibly dehydrated.
Our riding was much slower in our hungover state than it had been the first day, but fuelled by thirst we arrived at the next vineyard for water and wine. The next vineyard was one of the best known and for good reason. We took the wine tour which included a very informative tasting. Both were great and we not only enjoyed the vino but we learnt some things too. In fact we enjoyed ourselves so much we decided to stay for lunch.
We enjoyed Mendoza so much and it was a fantastic holiday as we neared the end of our trip.
Now back to Santiago for more wine and good food.
NB: You’ll be pleased to hear, the large unopened jar of olives we bought in the oil factory were allowed through customs on the border so we were free to consume them at leisure in Santiago. Phew!