Exploring Argentina’s wine regions was, of course, high up on our bucket list of must do’s. Having spent a week exploring Buenos Aires we had planned to book an Estancia (ranch) and disappear into vine lined countryside for the next week. What we hadn’t accommodated for was the expense of staying in an Estancia. Our Lonely Planet Guide to South America was two years out of date and as such the cost of living in Argentina was way off, 10 times cheaper than today’s prices. As such we had to rethink our plan.
Our usual mode of transport, the bus, was surprisingly netting out to be much more expensive than hiring a car so we headed to Jorge Newbury airport in Buenos Aires and hired a white Chevrolet. With Google maps and our Christmas Spotify playlist at the ready, we set off, winding our way around the endless loops of road out of the city, heading West to Mendoza.
With 14 hours of straight road ahead of us and Michael Buble’s Christmas album blaring out of the speakers, we drove for hours on end through the flat, lush Argentine countryside. The patchwork of fields that surrounded us seemed endless, the fields ten times the size to back home in England. Marshland lined the sides of the single lane roads, home to hundreds of pelicans and flamingo’s that stood tall, elegantly decorating the roadside. Thousands of white butterflies fluttered and danced across our path for what must have been a four-hour stretch.
As dusk drew in we found a small B&B in a tiny farming town 7 hours outside of Mendoza. That night we experienced a storm that can only be described as biblical. Thunder murmured endlessly for hours and hours whilst gigantic cracks of lightening lined and lit up the night sky. The next morning the sun shone strongly following us the whole way to Mendoza.
As we approached Mendoza we could see the Andes line the skyline like a stage set. Perfect snow capped peaks lined the horizon and suddenly we felt like we were on familiar ground. We hadn’t seen the Andes since Patagonia and we had missed them. The Andes had been the one constant since Peru and it felt good to have them back in view.
We had switched our Estancia for a small and more affordable apartment in the suburbs of Mendoza. Revelling in having our own privacy and kitchen we cooked every evening for a week. Having discovered that we could buy four fillet steaks for the equivalent of £4 and red wine for £1.50 we dined like kings every day relishing home cooked food.
Every day we set out to explore the various Bodega’s (Wineries) that are scattered across the surrounding countryside. It’s common practice to hire a bike and cycle through Maipu (the main Bodega district) hopping from bodega to bodega sampling Mendoza’s special juice. Most bodega’s do hourly tours and tastings most of the time for free or for a nominal cost (around £3). Some winery’s such as Vina el Cerno a family run bodega offer guided tastings where you can hear how each wine was made. Other winery’s such as neighbouring MEVI offer a more relaxed experience where you can sample four different glasses out on the terrace at your leisure.
After a week of eating and drinking far too much red meat and red wine we slowly made our way back to Buenos Aires stopping off in Junin for the evening. If you ever find yourself in Junin be sure to stay at the spectacular Casa Viva Hotel Boutique. This stunning Italian/Spanish inspired, family run B&B is a spectacular steal with home made bread and jams for breakfast and to top it off a queen size bed and jacuzzi style bath.