Riding bikes through Maipu Valley's Vineyards
By Sydney Tong on May 23, 2017. Read time: 4 mins.
Mendoza is the epicenter when it comes to South American wine and accounts for over 70% of Argentina's wine production. Located on a dry flat plain next to the Andes Mountains the climate is perfect for growing grapes.
Due to the high mountainous altitude, the nightly temperatures get cold enough to halt the ripening process which preserves the grape's acidity. Because of this, the grapes in Mendoza's Maipu Valley experience a longer ripening season and have enough time to mature.
Located 15 kilometers southeast of Mendoza is the region's most historic wine center. Maipu Valley is smaller compared to other wine regions in Mendoza and has approximately 20 wineries. The most well-known wineries from the region being Familia Zuccardi, La Rural, Trapiche and Finca Flichman.
Malbec wines are clearly the king in Maipu Valley. Generally speaking, Malbec wines from this region offer red fruit flavors such as; red currant, pomegranate, boysenberry, red plum, and cherry with notes of cedar and tobacco.
The best time to visit is during the spring or the fall.
For some reason we only brought hiking clothes to Mendoza. Thank you Mr. Hugo!
We were careless and didn't book a tour ahead. Consequently, all the tours were full. However, we were not going to miss an opportunity to visit some of the best wineries in Argentina. So we set off on this adventure by ourselves. It was the best decision we made all trip.
The first part is getting to the Maipu Valley from Mendoza. Three buses head in that direction. Catch any Group 10 bus, numbered #171, #172, #173, #174 but to Maipu Valley. Buses that belong to the same group will go to roughly the same area but will drive a different route within that area. The group number is displayed on the top of the bus, and the route number is a small sign in the corner of the window. We took bus #173 and didn't require and transfers.
The terrain in Mendoza is perfect for growing organic grapes.
The bus system in Mendoza is cashless, and riders must purchase a transit card from a kiosk located near most bus stations. Make sure you fill up the card enough for a roundtrip before leaving the city. A round trip will cost around 8 AP per person, and you can typically fill the card up where you purchase it. Ask for updated ticket prices from the shopkeeper. The bus ride is about 45 minutes, and it dropped us off right in front of Mr. Hugo's Bike Shop.
Mr. Hugo and his friendly staff met us in front of his shop. He employs interns from around the world to work at his shop and learn about wines at his winery behind the shop. A young Frenchman helped us out, he had only been at the shop for several months but knew all the best bodega's, places to eat and suggested the route we take for the day. He suggested that we start at the furthest point of the to avoid the tour crowds and so we wouldn't have to worry about biking the furthest distance on the way back.
Bikes are 80 AP per person a day, and the terrain is flat.
We recommend starting at the furthest end of the valley and making your way back. The first stop took us to Laur Olive Oil Farm and Production. This farm is family run and costs 40 AP per person. One of the daughters led the tour beginning in the olive grove with the history of the farm. The tour took us to the part of the farm that shows how olive oil was first made, and then to the room where they make olive oil now.
Don't eat olives from the tree they are bitter and poisonous before treated.
The tour ended in the gift shop where we tasted all the olive oils and varieties of vinegar made on the property. The tour was fascinating. Although the tour was completely in Spanish, our guide spoke clearly and gave further explanations in English if we needed it.
Old school oil presses
This family owned bodega was my favorite of the day. The staff was so friendly and are so passionate about their job. The tour is 90 AP per person, and the guide takes the group through the aging process. Familia Di Tomaso is an old winery, and the wine making process is still done by hand. The tour ends in an open room with a huge door that opens to the outside. We sat around the table as our guide gave us explanations of their wines.
They still use the original vats made of stone to make the wine. They also took us to their cellar which was once filled with wine.
This winery is one of the bigger ones in the Maipu Valley and offers free audio self-guided tours. It is not as charming as the previous two stops, and the estate is massive. We had lunch here with a French-Canadian couple that we had met earlier in the day. The veranda overlooks olive, almond, and cherry trees and it was the perfect late summer afternoon. If you are pressed for time I recommend skipping this vineyard.
It is recommended to have a reservation during meal times.
Tempus Alba is a more modern vineyard
Trapiche makes my favorite Malbec ever. Trapiche is one of the oldest wineries in Argentina and is number one in exporters of wine. Luckily for me, they export their products to the United States. The are very proud that they do not use pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides on their crops. Regrettably, we had to rush through this winery because they were closing soon.
They are open Monday-Friday 10am-5pm and Saturday, Sunday and holidays 10am-3pm.
We finished the short bike ride back to Mr. Hugo's shop to return our bikes. We walked across the street to a small restaurant and enjoyed several more glasses of wine while eating some empanadas. The staff was attentive and recommended some delicious wine.
Afterward, we caught the bus back to Mendoza, exhausted, full, and happy.
If you plan to ride a bike sipping on Maipu Valley's wine I recommend wearing comfy clothes, bringing tons of water and starting earlier in the day. Most vineyards open around 10 am.
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