Mendoza and the Wine Region
The beautiful vines and vineyards of the Mendoza region are a joy to behold...
"Mendoza" and "wine", "wine" and "Mendoza". To an Argentine the words are almost interchangeable. As the capital of Argentinean red wine production, this is the place to head to if you are even mildly interested in viticulture and food…or even if you just like imbibing them!
Nestling in the foothills of the Andes and only a two-hour drive from the famous peak of Aconcagua, Mendoza is an unlikely place to found a city due to its desert like surroundings and arid climate. The temperate winds and water that hits the other side of the Andes, on the Chilean side, absorb all of the water and, as such, relatively nothing comes down from the Argentina side of the mountains at all. This has affected this area hugely and is partly the reason for the fact that it is now South America’s largest wine growing area (more details in the Mendoza Wine and Food section).
The reason, however, that the Mendoza of today boasts fountains and verdant, leafy squares is down to the inhabitants who were using the land when the Spaniards arrives in the 1550s, the Huarpes. While not an overly successful tribe, they had developed a system of channel irrigation that redirected water from the nearby rivers. Today this system is still very much in evidence throughout the city and the surrounding vineyards, running under and beside the roads and pavements.
At around a million inhabitants, Mendoza has grown to become one of the largest cities in Argentina and has many features of a modern Spanish city. The first of these is the series of “plazas”, Independencia, Chile, Italia, Espana and San Martin around which the rest of the city is built. Whilst appearing colonial, these are actually a fairly new construction, after the 1861 earthquake that the city suffered, killing an estimate 6,000 of the 18,000 inhabitants. Open and grand, they also provide a welcome shelter should anything of a similar fate beset the city again.
On the whole we tend to recommend a night or two in the city for those that are looking to take in a little of the nightlife. All along the Av Aristides the cafes, bars and restaurants overflow every evening. For those that are looking to have a quieter time but also to have access to the city, we would then tend towards the nearby Chacras de Coria that is a little less busy, but no less good….or in one of the few vineyard accommodations.
Chacras de Coria
Heading out of the city, toward the wine valleys for which the area has become famous, is the small town of Chacras de Coria. Today, this area is often referred to as part of the greater Mendoza region, but it has still managed to retain a feeling of separation.
As tourism to the Mendoza region has grown, this small town has become more and more popular for the feeling of access to the city and the benefits, along with being nowhere near as busy or as congested. Many of the small “Fincas” or Paradors here are privately owned and much smaller than the larger hotels of the city, thus providing you with a much more personal touch.
On top of this, as Chacras is on the edge of some of the vineyards, it is a short cycle or car ride to many of the best restaurants or smaller vineyards where it is possible to have a look around and have a tasting.
We are very big fans of this area and definitely recommend visiting the Clos de Chacras restaurant that is right in the centre of town and could not prepare a better lunch….but be warned that you may not be able to cycle back afterwards!!