On arriving at Mendoza airport I was given a little punnet of grapes. ‘wow, grapes’ I thought, because after three months in Argentina I get tremendously excited about fruit. Then next thing I knew a man shoved a microphone at me and proceeded to interview me in Spanish about Mendoza and grapes, whilst another man filmed me. I was like a rabbit in the headlights and all I kept thinking was ‘please don’t ask me a question I don’t understand’.
Well apparently it is grape harvest festival in Mendoza. The weekend had a few special events planned, including a carnival with carnival princesses throwing grapes to passers-by from floats being driven through the city. This is the grape harvest carousel.
Mendoza is a nice, liveable city. Everyone says that and after finally getting there I admit that I think they’re probably right. Prices are more reasonable (after Patagonia everything seems reasonable though), the climate is dry and warm (though not so dry the weekend I was there as it turned out) and the people are friendly and welcoming.
I stayed in a shared airbnb apartment. It was ok. It had the obligatory black plastic couch. Some of the other people there were a little annoying, although it could just be that I’m getting a little hosteled-out and need to retreat to my own bit of space again for a while.
In particular there was a couple who kept their keys in the door, so that my key wouldn’t work and I had to ring the bell to get in and then wait for them to hear it. ‘I can’t work the key either’ the woman told me (as if it were somehow my fault), ‘I have to get my husband to do it’. Well I suppose it must be wonderful to have a husband to do all the little jobs you find too difficult yourself, such as turning a key.
Yes, even I can hear it now; next place I am renting my own little bit of space.
Mendoza is most famous for its wine production, and you can visit the bodegas (vineyards), which lie around 10-15k out of the city.
The majority of vineyards aren’t open at weekends, meaning that I only had Monday as a suitable day to go. You can get the bus there yourself, but you need to book your tour, sometimes weeks in advance, so in the end I went with a tourist bus, which seemed to be the only thing available at short notice.
I wouldn’t particularly recommend these tours. It was a bit like a conveyor belt with back-to-back buses of tourists. The tour guides seemed somewhat bored and disinterested and the main purpose was to sell wine.
We did get to try a good few wines, but I’m not a big fan of wine anyway and I only really buy it if someone’s coming round. Plus, I was catching the bus to Chile the next day anyway and didn’t need anything else to carry. The tour guide became even more disinterested when she found nobody wanted to buy, although a few of the Argentinian tourists bought a case or two.
The wine was selling at 100 pesos (£4.50/$6.50) a bottle for the standard Shiraz or Chardonnay.
We visited two vineyards and an olive oil factory in one afternoon. By far the most interesting was the olive oil factory.
They brought out some little squares of bread with various spreads for us to try and people pushed and shoved in order to get to the front and vacuum up as much food as possible.
If I went again I would make sure to book a bodega tour in advance, and go there independently. Or even skip the bodega thing altogether and enjoy the city instead.