Argentina | Mendoza Tidbit: Esencias de la Tierra

Mendoza proper, the capital of the province, is not exactly what I expected, and I don’t necessarily have lots to gush about. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to do in the area. Here, you’ll find: the biggest park ever (four-square-kilometer General San Martin Park), pleasant, leafy streets, some beautiful house watching, and ample outdoor activities, especially with the nearby, hovering Aconcagua. However, Mendoza is primarily known for its main industries of olive oil and wine production, so let’s talk about some local tours:

Tour 1: Bodegas Lopez – A huge vineyard that usually combines tours with several other groups and processes a huge amount of wine for both domestic and international consumption.

In addition to being disappointed in not seeing the vineyards themselves, I felt sort of rushed and uncomfortable. We just sort of roamed from building to building in the heat, and people in our group would pose with giant wine bottles and other staged props. The place felt a lot like a factory – not very personal. The highlight, however, no doubt laid in seeing the bottling process, which was grand and impressive. Most large bodegas here import this outrageously expensive Italian bottling equipment, and it certainly does an efficient job. The tasting involved minimum amounts of signature wines, and was held in a crowded cellar, though the wines were affordable and respectable, if not remarkable.

Tour 2: Familia Cecchin – An organic, smaller vineyard that made for a quieter, more pleasant environment.

This tour was much smaller and amiable; we got to stroll through the vineyard, touch the grape vines, and really take our time asking questions. The vine growth is a much more natural process, with fruit trees instead of pesticides, and much less growth manipulation than expected. Amid the sprawling grapes, Cecchin houses a cute outdoor restaurant with delicate, yet home-style cuisine. The tasting was done in the Cecchin wine shop, where they also stock organic olive oil, fruit preserves, and other various products. Had we the space, I would have stocked up royally. The tasting was really fun; our guide made entertaining comments and encouraged an active discussion about the wines, which I really liked.

Tour 3: Pasrai – A tiny olive oil factory on the outskirts of the busy city.

This was a really pleasant experience, with a really good, memorable guide and lovely atmosphere. The factory is truly tiny, encompassing only one medium-sized room, so the tour itself mostly revolved around the process of growing, pressing, and processing olive oil and olive oil products. Of all things, Pasrai’s tasting really struck me as exceptional. We got to sample several varieties of olive oil with nice bread, lotions, soaps, and skin oils. I ended up buying dozens of skin products, and they make for incredible skin.

Verdict: Stick to smaller, family-oriented companies, and you will surely be more satisfied with your experience, as well as enjoy the products more.

Just a thought, though this is not specific to Mendoza tours: Instead of being forced to take a vineyard tour and then only getting to taste tiny amounts of low quality wines, you should be able to do a tasting of high quality wines in generous helpings, even if you have to pay for it. In the area of wine tourism, Argentina needs a serious makeover. (Here are some tips I found to make the process easier: visiting wineries of mendoza: tips and how to get there)

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