Tasting Day

26th Nov. 2016

Three standard wines to tasteAfter hearing about a day tasting tour for US$150 pp, we decided to put together our DIY tasting day for a lot less! This involved walking to the next street and catching the local bus to Maipù, a wine growing area about 16 kilometres from town. The first challenge was paying our 50p fare without the necessary smartcard to tap in on the bus. Waving cash and asking if anyone had a tarjeta worked and a señor took the money and clocked us on.

Next an olive oil tastingNext involved keeping the faith, as the bus headed east when we wanted to go south! The bus took 45 minutes to go the 16 km as it wended its way around local streets stopping every few hundred metres. This convoluted route threw us and we missed the obvious place to jump off next to some bike hire shops due east of Maipù. Following the instructions in Lonely Planet would have saved us some time, but the results would have been much the same.

Main Plaza fountainGetting off in the town centre and a cup of coffee restored us as we consulted the map and headed off to a bike hire marked on the map. The gate was locked but we could see bikes set up inside on the front porch of what looked like a private house. Having found the bell we were soon kitted up and on our way. Whilst the bikes were nowhere near as good as those we had in Elqui Valley they weren’t the worst bikes we’ve ever had either. At least there was no problem sorting the gears – there were none.

Help from the local policeAbout two miles before our first stop at Di Tomasso winery I went over a bump which jolted my back wheel into the frame and came to a grinding halt. As we contemplated what to do as we did not have any spanners which would have fixed the bike in 30 seconds, a police truck stopped to help. They rang the bike rental shop, lifted the bikes into their truck, loaded us up too and drove us on to the winery. Very helpful and friendly.

Concrete vatsWe then began our tour and tasting while we waited for help. We had chosen the Di Tomasso winery as it is one of the oldest in the area established in the 1860’s by an Italian family. The winery includes huge brick and concrete built tanks which are unusual. A group of Spanish and Italian girls were just finishing their tour and we joined them for the tasting. The young lady explained to us how to taste, which we knew but she was still very informative over judging colour, smell and viscosity of wine. We tried a young (six month) Malbec, a Malbec Reserve, twelve months in oak barrels and a Cabernet Sauvignon which had been eighteen months in barrels. All quite different and all very tasty, although nothing unusual or unique.

Standard lunchNext was the tour which started as just us as we walked around the vines, but became a group of ten as more people joined us for an English tour, all very informal and friendly. It included a walk through the cellar which is kept humid by flooding the cellar every weekend and drying it out on Monday. The whole winery did everything by hand, including the monthly watering of the vines. Interestingly this vineyard is a medium sized one, producing 60,000 litres of wine a year. We had imagined that Argentinian wine production would be more commercialised and on a larger scale than Chile, but from our trip we have concluded it is the other way round!

Is this the right place?Whilst we were engrossed in our tour my bike was taken away and a replacement left for me so after our lunch of empanadas (what else!) we were on our way again. Next stop was an olive oil tasting as that is one of the other Mendoza regional specialities. See! We do have more than a one track mind for tastings. The building was not inviting and a bit run down externally but very elegant inside. I have never experienced such a tasting and the table was smartly set up with the bottles of oil and balsamic vinegar, with bread, pastes and olives.

Delightful array for tastingThe oils were all pure extra virgin oil from 100% Arbequina olives to pure 100% Arauco olives and blends in between. The oils were disappointing and chatting to a local later, we did not chose the best place to taste. We did however enjoy the olives and the experience. We did not hang around as a coach trip turned up and after they had a quick tour they invaded the showroom.

DIY bar and tapsOur final stop was a small beer garden attached to a house, with locally brewed beers to taste. Dave tried the stout and drained the barrel, whereas I tried the Irish Red and stuck with just a jam jar full. We were both happy with our choices. We could have sat all day enjoying the sunshine sat out in the garden with the chickens and a little lamb but by now it was gone 5pm and we needed to get the bikes back. Sadly there was no time for the organic winery or the boutique olive grove. Perhaps we could have got going a bit more smartly in the morning or if we hadn’t had the bike break we could have done more.

Tasty brew in jam jarsThe bus back to town was standing room only and as it went a different route back we bailed out at the bus station, as we knew that was not far to walk. We totted up the bill and found we had spent £40 between us on our DIY tasting day and had a great time with interesting experiences at local establishments and not big slick tourist operations. Our ‘don’t be a gringo’ motto wins the day again!

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