Hello Mendoza! I was somehow able to hop on a trip to Argentina recently. Exciting. I had never been to South America proper and it's a bit lame that as a ‘professional wine professional' that I hadn't visited either Chile or Argentina.
Flight! It's a long flight. We were headed to Mendoza so had a 11 or so hour flight from JFK to Buenos Aries. Then a short 1.5 hour flight out to Mendoza. The airline was Argentina's national airline: Aerolineas Argentinas. They are a Delta/SkyTeam partner (as I'm all about those miles) and are also fun to say. Try it. That said, they are kind of kooky. Did you know that they keep the cockpit door open during the whole flight apart from take-off and landing? That seems like a think that we don't do anymore, but when in Argentina…
The Amazon is bumpy. Both flights down were pretty bumpy with turbulence and the pilot mentioned that the Amazon was stormy this month. JUNGLE! (Also, we were lucky to get upgrades to the Aerolineas Argentinas First Class seats and they were fine. Not 100% flat, but fine enough. It ain't super fancy, but it'll do!)
4am in Buenos Aries We landed in BA at 4am in the morning and it was something like 80 degrees outside. At 4am. That'll wake you up.
Mendoza We were there to visit vineyards and drink wine. Basically. And this "WE" stuff is myself and a colleague (we'll call him "JOE CO-WORKER"). Mendoza sits at the base of the Andes. To the east it super flat and dry. To the west, you have the towering Andes. It's amazing country.
From a wine point-of-view, there are lots of interesting factors at play…
-- The Andes are relatively young and with the constant movement (relatively) you tend to get lots of different soil and minerals and all that. Often from the snow melt washing it down the hill.
-- Compared to almost every other major wine producing area in the word, there is basically no ‘maritime' influence in Mendoza. When you look at basically every other wine producing region you have some sort of water influence that tends to moderate the weather. In Mendoza you don't have that.
-- Altitude is interesting here. The vineyards in Mendoza are in the foothills of the Andes. They aren't actually on the side of the mountain like you might see in parts of Germany where you might imagine a winemaker slipping and rolling down the hill.
-- Malbec is the star. As you may know, Malbec came to Argentina from France and still grows there. The issue in France, and especially in Bordeaux, is that Malbec needs more heat and sun than Cabernet or Merlot. It's also not as tough as the other grapes when dealing with diseases or pests. Why it's done so well in Argentina is that it has found an environment with plenty of sun and heat and very little other issues. It's flourished there.
-- When driving past the vineyards you may notice that many are covered in netting. Usually when you see that, the netting is there to keep birds out of the vineyards. In Mendoza the netting is there to protect the vines from hailstorms. This area gets very little rain, but it does tend to get a few violent storms featuring hail. Ouch.
The Best Time It was a lovely week in Argentina. There were lots of vineyards looked at. There was a lot of delicious food eaten (and they really do eat dinner quite late). We toured around Mendoza which was a much bigger city than I expected.
What was the funnest? The day spent up in the mountains at a little ranch. Gaucho style. We went horseback riding. There were tons of amazing grilled meats for lunch. Spectacular views. A cranky horse. That was great.