Wine Town and City Scenes: Mendoza & Santiago

The 17 hour long bus journey was remarkably pleasant. We bought “semi-cama” tickets which means your big leather chair reclines and is nearly as comfortable as a bed. We were served an edible dinner (I’m learning not to be picky) within an hour or two and then breakfast in the morning. It’s just like being on an aeroplane but more roomy.

Once in Mendoza, our friends picked us up and we dropped our bags at the house before going to explore the town centre.

Mendoza is a pretty town with lots of green well decorated plazas, restaurants and cool bars.

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However, the real attraction of the area are the wineries and the incredible chain of mountains, the Andes.

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The day after we arrived, Ameelah and Jamie flew into Mendoza. Unbelievably, they were staying only a few miles from our friends house so we walked over to collect them before going out in Mendoza for supper.

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We chose a restaurant called ‘La Barra’ and were not disappointed. The restaurant is run by a husband and wife duo. Their food was excellent, much better than the meal we had eaten in BA and cheaper too.

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We finished at the restaurant and carried on the giggles at their finca.

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Ameelah and Jamie were visiting a few wineries that they work with back in the UK. They very kindly invited us along for what was an incredibly fun and spoiling day.

First we visited ‘Luigi Bosca’, a winery started by the Arizu family who have a strong European legacy that dates back to the XVIII century. Leoncio Arizu arrived in Argentina in 1890 searching for new opportunities, and in 1901 he founded the Winery in the province of Mendoza. Then he and the Boscas, another old and prosperous family that had emigrated from the Piamonte region in Italy, decided to join efforts and founded what is today Bodega Luigi Bosca – Arizu Family.

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The winery’s architectural design is classic, and the building was built over the original building which was an old mill. You get a real sense of old heritage at this winery and it just oozes history and elegance.

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Before arriving in Argentina I didn’t drink red wine at all and in fact, I only drank white every now and then. Therefore I have never really taken the time to appreciate just how complicated the process of making wine is! Safe to say I learnt a few things during the tour!

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I had no idea the type of wood used for the barrel had such an impact on the flavour of the wine. Most wineries we visited seemed to favour french oak.

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After our tour, we were taken inside to another beautiful part of the building to enjoy the wine we had just learnt about.

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All the wines were divine and typically, my favourite was the most expensive one.

We left Luigi Bosca a little light headed and got a taxi to Zuccardi, a much bigger winery in the Uco Valley.

Zuccardi is a family company founded in 1963 by Engineer Alberto Zuccardi whose familiy settled in Argentina from Italy. There are now many generations involved in the winery and in September 2007, the prestigious magazine DECANTER acknowledged José Alberto and Sebastián Zuccardi as being among the ‘five most influential personalities of Argentine Wine’.

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This entrance to the winery has a very different feel to Luigi Bosca; its rustic but with a modern edge. Unusual and interesting artwork hangs from the walls and the barrels have graffiti on them.

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We had a quick tour of Zuccardi before being invited over to the restaurant for lunch with the export manager.

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We had heard great things about lunch at Zuccardi and as they had rolled out the red carpet for Jamie and Ameelah we had high hopes that this could be a special.

The restaurant is beautiful with vines dangling from above you as you walk through the shady courtyard.

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Whilst enjoying the most delicious meal, the wine flowed.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t take any other pictures of the amazing food we were served. We had pork, goat, beef, the traditional ‘blood sausage’ and chorizo accompanied by salads, vegetables and bread. Everything was cooked to perfection and the variety of cuts and meats made it all the more interesting.

By the end of the meal the table was covered in glasses and empty wine bottles.

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The bad news is, I am now not such a cheap date for Max. I am a converted red wine drinker. Well done Mendoza, how cliche. We were all incredibly impressed with the Zuccardi wines and I the whole experience. If you go to Mendoza, Zuccardi is a must visit Bodega… and don’t forget to go hungry and book lunch/dinner in advance.

I have honestly not laughed so much in 2 days as I did with Ameelah and Jamie. It’s crazy to think Ameelah and I hadn’t seen each other for so many years, but then, out of nowhere, Facebook reunites us back together for 4 days of fun and giggles.

Over the next few days we toured around the area, enjoying the stunning views of the mountains.

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The flat land covered in green vines with the backdrop of the mountains is really very special.

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The roses that are frequently planted at the perimeter of vineyards, apart from adding a hint of colour and class, actually have a purpose too! Roses typically require the same type of soil and sun as grapevines and back in the day, rose hedges were planted as an early warning system to protect the health of the grapevines. Early detection of disease or stress on the roses alerted winemakers to take the necessary precautions to protect vines from damage. I think they have more advanced technology to do that jazzy stuff now but the tradition of planting the roses is still there. They also provide food for bees and offer habitat for beneficial insects preying on undesirable insects that can damage the grape crop. Beauty and purpose all in one, brilliant.

Salentein was a very impressive modern looking winery, complete with mini art gallery (and cute owls).

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After another tour (becoming a pro),

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we tasted the wines from this roof top terrace. Rather spectacular!

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With its hot air, green surroundings and mountains in the distance, Mendoza was quite breathtaking but it was time to make a move. We made the decision to leave some things in Mendoza because our bags were so heavy and we knew that we would be camping and hiking a lot in the coming weeks. Both the laptops stayed and any unnecessary clothing.

We woke up at 8:45am for our 9am bus, thank’s to Max not putting an alarm on, swore lots, flung everything in the car and raced ‘Fast and Furious’ style to the bus station. Luckily and thank’s to Arnaud’s tactful driving and calm temper we made it in the nick of time.

After 6 hours, we arrived at the border.

Hello Chile! (Photo taken facing the wrong way…)

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We waited 2 hours to pass through the border check. Every bag had to come off the bus and go through a scanner. Sniffer dogs were out in force and we even saw one guy get escorted into a room after 2 different dogs had taken rather a lot of interest in his bag. Amongst a number of things, no fruit or veg or produce from Argentina can cross the border.

We managed to get a night in a friends friends apartment. That made it 3 weeks without having to camp or stay in a hostel. Not to mention the money we saved. Boom.

After ditching our stuff we headed straight to the ‘W Hotel’ for sunset drinks. Whilst the £8 cocktails are certainly not within our travelling budget, we had read that this was the best place to watch the sunset over the Andes and decided to just do it. Sometimes you just have to say yes, and live a little. We knew there would be harder times to come and we would be thankful for these moments of luxury.

Wow, it was a colourful evening it was. I definitely agree, a perfect place to admire the city and sunset from up high.

IMG_0509IMG_0518‘W Hotels’ always have an incredibly cool, funky, unique vibe and despite the price tag, the ones we have visited have never been pretentious and snobby. Plus, it makes for great people watching.

The next day we wandered around the city all day, trying to fit in as much as possible before we left that evening.

For me it was even more European than Buenos Aires. I loved the beautiful sun soaked plazas, the metro was incredibly efficient and the people were friendly.

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Big doors!

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For lunch, we ate at the famous fish market and consumed a huge amount of fresh ceviche. We looked for the place where all the locals were rather than the tourists and it seemed to work.

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Max preferred Santiago and I preferred Buenos Aires. Both have their positives and negatives and both are worth visiting, even if only for a few days in each. We have spent quite a while discussing the best points of both and attempting to change each others minds.

The day, which happened to be St. Valentines,  drew to a close at 10pm when we caught another overnight bus south to Pucon, and dined on rather squashed chicken and avocado sandwiches. What a lucky girl I am!

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