Monday, 18 March 2013


It’s fast becoming the most popular red wine in the UK.  It’s what you think of when you say ‘Argentina’, along with gauchos and tango and plate-sized steaks.  And it’s great.

Go into a wine shop in Argentina, and there will be a whole section devoted to malbec.  Ask for the wine menu and there will be a page of them.  Malbec is big business here.   They even have it in their fountains.

We decided that it was Malbec in the Mendoza fountains
We didn’t hire a car in Argentina, so we took a tour of Mendoza’s wineries.  It was the first, and only, tour of our trip – as you’ve probably gathered, we much prefer to go it alone.  But we thought it would be nice to be picked up at the hotel and driven around for a change – it also meant we could drink.

We hadn’t booked anything in advance, but had no problem booking through the hotel for the next day.  We were picked up at 9.20am, spent an hour driving round Mendoza picking up from other hotels, then went to our first vineyard, Navarro Correas, a large commercial one with massive steel tanks and rows and rows of French oak.

Rows and rows of French oak in Navarro Correas
Our second winery was a much smaller family affair, Vina elCerno, where wine is fermented in concrete pools, something we’ve not come across since a visit to France a few years ago (where we were taken up to the top and invited to peer in, gave me dreams of drowning in wine . . .).  This winery was very much a working one, no fancy house or pretty forecourt here.  Well, when I say working  . . .

Repairs underway at Vina el Cerno
We then visited the Cavas de Don Arturo, which would be an organic winery, but for the fact that, like all wineries in Mendoza, they irrigate.  Meltwater from the Andes comes down into channels and keeps the grapes watered – without this there would be no wine industry (and no tree lined avenues in Mendoza).  It also means no wondering what the weather is going to do around harvest time – irrigation is stopped a month before to allow for better ripening.

We were then taken to a restaurant, where we’d been told to expect a few samples of local meats and cheeses.  Turned out to be a table full of meats and cheeses, plus olives, pickles, dips, empanadas, a rice dish and spaghetti bolognaise – followed by ice cream and dulce de leche.  We decided we didn’t need to eat out that night, so went to a wine tasting bar and drank three more malbecs, all good.

The rest of our tasting was done while eating huge and delicious steaks, and after browsing in wine shops.  Oh, and in the bath at the wonderful  Los Proteros (just what you need after three hours in the saddle) – and drunk mulled after a ride as well.

I’ll write a separate blog about Los Protreros later.  But for now I’ll just say that the malbec certainly helped with the stiffness!

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