Best Wine Regions In Mendoza: Something For Everyone
Mendoza is the name to know when it comes to Argentinian wine – and even when talking about South America, Mendoza has earned the number one spot in most critics’ lists.
The reasons are plenty but, to put it simply, Mendoza produces great wine. Though if you’re reading this, you already know that! Instead of talking about how delicious Mendozan wine is (very), we’ll learn all about the region of Mendoza, its history, why it’s special, and most importantly, the best wines coming out of Mendoza.
This article was contributed by TeaCoffee99.com.
Mendoza: a brief history
The city was founded in the 16th century by Spanish colonizers. Right from the start, Mendoza stood out: native tribes of the area had devised a complex irrigation system that utilized water from nearby rivers to water the area.
As a result, Mendoza is an astonishingly green city. Trees tall as towers line almost every single street in Mendoza, making a simple walk around the city a magical experience. These trees are watered using this 500 year-old irrigation system.
But when did the winemaking start?
It wasn’t up until the 19th century that wine started being appreciated more in the country. Argentina saw massive immigration, especially from Italy, a country with one of the oldest wine traditions in the world. These Italian immigrants wanted better wine, and they looked to Mendoza.
Why Mendoza? Because it is huge. It is a vast expanse of practically desert in which, under normal circumstances, no one would think to grow grapes in. That’s when that centuries-old, pre-colonization irrigation system came in. It was improved upon, expanded, giving the region enough water to produce enough high quality wine for the whole country – and then some.
The making of Mendoza
What happened next was an explosion. Some of these immigrants were wine experts, and they brought their culture to Mendoza. The government saw the immense potential here, so they declared it illegal to grow wine anywhere but Mendoza.
This would ensure that all winemakers would gather here, making it the wine capital. If you wanted to make wine, you’d have to go to Mendoza. It created a winemaking community in Mendoza that supported each other and that shared knowledge with each other.
At the time, Argentina loved everything French – even in architecture, their buildings were being built à la French, and wine was no different. By the start of the 20th century, over 80% of vineyards in Mendoza were from French stock. The most important one would be Malbec, Argentina’s favorite and their most important product in terms of wine.
So we have a thriving community that has imported not only experts from the Old Worlds, but also its best seeds.
The second main ingredient here is the location. As we mentioned, Mendoza is located in an arid region which is irrigated. This water comes from nearby rivers – Mendoza is actually quite close to The Andes, South America’s vast mountain range which goes through the whole continent from top to bottom.
Up in the peaks of these mountains glaciers form, which melt and create these rivers. This water is exceptionally rich in nutrients, which plays a big part in the unique flavorfulness of Argentine wine.
Best wine regions in Mendoza
Mendoza was listed by National Geographic as one of the top 10 historic destinations in the world – largely because of the rich history of winemaking and the unique history of the city -and region- itself.
Maipú (an aboriginal name) has the oldest winemaking tradition of them all, being the very first region which was populated.
Maipú gets very little rainfall year round, meaning that it is almost entirely dependent on the Mendoza River for irrigation. The more glaciers are melting over at the Andes, the better it is for viticulture in this region.
It’s also worth noting that while Maipú may be the oldest region in terms of winemaking, it is not by far the best one, precisely because of the lack of rainfall. But it was thanks to Maipú and to its early success that winemaking was brought to Mendoza.
Finca Mirador by Achaval Ferrer is one of the best wines from Maipú.
Luján de Cuyo
Luján de Cuyo was the first delineated appellation for the purposes of wine production – recognized by the IOVW – the International Organization of Vine and Wine. It’s located in the Upper Mendoza Valley, at a higher altitude than Maipú, making it a better location for certain varieties, Malbec in particular being the main variety produced here.
Luján de Cuyo is located in a valley south of Mendoza City and it is one of the most important viticulture spots in the country, with most of the big winemaking names in the country hailing from this region.
It shares its name with a small town which is usually one of the first stops of tourists visiting the area.
Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir are the main varieties here, with Gernot Langes being one of the most delicious producers in the region.
The northern regions are Lavalle, Guaymallén, and Las Heras. They are located next to the Mendoza River in a relatively green area of Mendoza compared to the other regions. It is approximately 700 meters above sea level, making the climate rather warm.
Perhaps one of the most interesting things about Lavalle is the amount of independent winemakers in the region: it is often referred to as the South American capital of artisanal, homemade wine.
Because of the favorable weather here, vineyards have to be tended to very little, making viticulture largely hassle-free, and incentivizing people to make their own wine.
Lavalle’s homemade wine is a unique delicacy and a must-try if you’re ever in the country.
A region full of old colonial Spanish buildings, it has found its niche in sparkling wine. Guaymallén (an aboriginal name, too) has broken with tradition and strayed from the path of Malbec to favor sparkling wines.
Nationally, Guaymallén is also known as a cultural hub, full of museums and tourist spots.
Efigenia Extra Brut is one of Guaymalléns most celebrated wines.
Here we find the oldest official winey in the country: González Videla de Las Heras.
Las Heras is a region that is dominated by tradition: most winemakers in this region do things exactly the same way their fathers and grandfathers did them. Malbec is their main product.
Las Heras is home to several modern wine bars which will offer you a selection of the best wines of the region – and that’s a fact!
San Rafael and General Alvear are the two departments at the southern region of Mendoza, both at comparatively low altitudes ranging from 400 to 700 meters above sea level. They are known mostly for their Chenin and in general for straying from Malbec tradition. But most importantly, the southern region is home to the Uco Valley.
One of Mendoza’s most picturesque locations sitting at up to 1600 meters above sea level. This makes the Uco Valley more temperate when it comes to climate, and the Uco Valley doesn’t feel the change of the seasons as much.
A stable and milder climate makes for better wine, and Uco Valley is one of the top locations for Argentines who love wine: the region is breathtakingly beautiful and that alone is enough to attract visitors.
Uco Valley also has a lot of small, independent winemakers. Many of these try out new wines in local restaurants and bars, making it a big attraction to go out to the Uco Valley to taste many different wines. You might just taste one of Uco Valley’s next big hits!
Gravascal, a red wine from the Finca Piedra Infinita is one of the most famous wines of the Uco Valley, made by the Zuccardi Family, arguably the most important name in Mendoza when it comes to wine.