Argentina is famous for a few things – the tango, amazing beef, gauchos and ranches. It’s also famous for WINE! You could say we’re pretty partial to a glass of vino (usually cheap vino), so we couldn’t go to Argentina without visiting the wine region of Mendoza and sampling some of its produce.
We love a DIY tour so when we heard about self-guided cycling tours between different vineyards near Mendoza, we were definitely keen. Joe’s aunt and uncle were also pretty supportive of our wine-cycling ambitions and very kindly bought us the tour as a wedding gift – thank you so much Paul and Sue!
There are a few different wine regions around Mendoza and Maipu is one of the most well-known, but we were told that Lujan de Cuyo is a prettier area for cycling and you get great views of the vineyards and mountains. It’s also really easy to get to, we just got a local bus from the centre of Mendoza and got dropped off in the small town of Chacras de Coria, where the bike rental shop Bacchus Bikes is located.
The staff at Bacchus were great, they gave us a map and also a route for visiting 3 vineyards (2 of which offered free tastings – winner) as well as a chocolate shop. Visiting a chocolate shop after a full day of drinking wine? Dangerous, but also genius. We paid for a full day’s bike hire, which was 300 pesos each (about £15) and off we went!
We were surprised by how good the bikes were – we’d heard stories about some rental bikes not even having gears, but ours were in good condition with comfy seats (thumbs up from the female out of the two of us). The cycling was a lot of fun and it was so nice to be out of the city and enjoying the views. You could also tell we were in regularly bike territory, the car drivers were really polite and even gave way for us (this also made the drunken cycling part a lot safer).
Our first bodega of the day was Carmelo Patti, named after the founder and owner of the company. We were even greeted by the man himself, who was so friendly and welcoming and let us wander around the warehouse before guiding us through a tasting. All for free! He is so passionate about wine and seemed to really enjoy having people there.
Now is probably a good time to admit that I’m usually a white wine girl and not overly fond of red… until Carmelo Patti’s wine that is! It was so smooth and fruity! We tried three wines, including a Malbec which is what Mendoza is famous for, and they were all really nice.
Once we’d finished our glasses and chatted to Carmelo some more, we headed off on our bikes to vineyard number 2 (a little less sober than our cycle to Carmelo Patti).
Even from the gate La Garde winery looked beautiful! Lovely buildings with vineyards behind them – we were definitely impressed!
We were given a tour of the bodega including the production facilities and the big storage cellar which must have had thousands of bottles of wine in, it was huge! We also got to wander around the vineyard and check out the produce for the next harvest.
Then came the best bit – the tasting! La Garde offer three types of tastings or you can splash out and have a 3 or 5 course lunch with paired wines. We went for the middle of the road tasting (not the cheapest by not the premium wines) which cost 270 pesos each (about £13) although we got a discount of 50 pesos each because we’d rented from Bacchus Bikes. A nice surprise!
We tried a classic Malbec, a rosé and a white sparkling wine. Again, they were all so nice but the white was our favourite. It was slightly sweet and tasted a little bit like fizzy apple juice, and it was dangerously easy to drink! So we treated ourselves to a bottle. Another couple from Bacchus bikes had caught up with us and we formed a bit of a group, so they bought the rosé and we enjoyed a boozy hour in the sun before an even boozier cycle to vineyard number 3.
Our arrival at Nieto Senetiner couldn’t have been timed any better, even if we’d done it on purpose.
We got there just before the 4pm tour was about to start and rather than asking us to wait, they sent us straight through to join the tasting at the end of the previous tour. Perfect! We tried two reds – a Malbec and a Cabernet Sauvignon – and a white blend. All lovely, but the Cab Sauv was a bit too heavy for me. The Malbec and white blend went down a treat though! By this point we were also grateful for the ‘palette cleanser’ crackers which we munched just to soak up all the alcohol.
After the tasting we went back to join the tour of the bodega… which I can’t remember much of so I’ll skip over it…!
What I DO remember is going back to the tasting room after the bodega tour. The staff had forgotten we’d already done it so we lucked out and got another free tasting.
After yet more alcohol we had a wander in the vineyard. We’d heard good things about Nieto Senetiner and it definitely was pretty! Probably not as pretty as La Garde, but the vineyard had lovely views and tables where you could sit and relax.
Joe, feeling flush and under the influence of alcohol, decided to splash out on a bottle of the Malbec, which we drank two nights ago with some lovely Argentinian steak. Beaut!
Very Boozy Cycling
Our journey back to Bacchus Bikes was probably not the most graceful (or safe) bits of cycling we’ve ever done, but it was fun and for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to try no-hands cycling… which turned out better than it could’ve done because I actually wasn’t too bad at it! Successfully avoided a potentially nasty crash and a travel insurance medical claim. Phew.
We also stopped by the much anticipated chocolate shop, where we got a free tasting (thanks to Bacchus, otherwise it’s 50 pesos per person, about £2). All the chocolates were delicious! Now we couldn’t visit a chocolate shop without making a purchase, so we bought a box of 12 and managed not to eat them on the bus back to Mendoza. That chocolate shop must do pretty well for itself since it’s on a wine cycling route…
We made it back to the bike shop safe and sound and definitely a lot less sober than when we’d been there in the morning. We really enjoyed visiting the bodegas though and enjoyed sampling the wine even more, and cycling was such a good way to get around. We could do it in our own time and make the most of the good weather and lovely views.
All in all, a very successful wine tasting and cycling tour!
Are you a fan of wine? Have you visited any good vineyards? Are you a fan of boozy cycling? Leave us a comment and let us know! Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram for more travel photos @pitkinswithpassports