Situated high up in the foothills of the Andes mountains, lies the dusty town of Mendoza.
Just like every other Argentine city, it’s a land full of empanadas, steaks as big as your head and gutsy red wines.
The difference is, in Mendoza they not only drink wine, they make it too.
In fact, if you were to ask any wine aficionado which Argentinean wine region was most renowned, they would without doubt answer Mendoza.
It was the Malbec grape variety that catapulted the region to global fame, and I was lucky enough to be invited to one of the last remaining family owned wineries in the area; Catena Zapata.
The history of the regions winemaking is not what you might expect, especially when considering the kind of wines they are making today. Originally the vineyards were located in the hotter, east of the region – where they weren’t so bothered about producing iconic red wines, but simply as much wine as possible to keep up with demand (the average consumption per person was around 70 litres per annum 20 years ago!).
In fact – as I’m sure many Malbec lovers will be appalled to hear – the red grapes were often grown in order to be pressed into white wines.
It was Nicolas Catena who abandoned the warmer planes of the east and thought there might be promise in the higher altitudes of the Andes. Most winemakers thought he was absolutely crazy when he first started experimenting, but he was proven right and soon many others began to follow in his footsteps.
Now, pulling up to the state of the art winery in the Uco Valley, you realise how far they have come.
The impressive building houses not only tasting rooms, but a research laboratory and extensive cellars too.
We were there to meet Wine Educator Mercedes and Sofia – one of their winemakers, who took us through an extensive tasting.
Of course, lots of their star grape variety was on offer. But alongside the Malbec, the classics of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon were also present.
Perhaps the most surprising of all of the wines was the success of Cabernet Franc. Even Sofia, the winemaker, admitted that they were still experimenting with it and were yet to find their groove. But from what we could taste it was exceptional, and lacking all of the green character that you can often find with that variety.
For more of my Argentine adventure, tune in next post…