As soon as you step off the plane in Mendoza, Argentina, it will be obvious that you are in wine country. Billboards advertising different wine brands, neatly terraced vineyards and marketing for numerous wine tours, cooking classes and tasting sessions will be everywhere you look. While many of these options are worthwhile, most are very expensive. On a recent trip to Mendoza, however, I discovered a fun and inexpensive way to experience the best wine the region has to offer – a self-guided bike tour.
To get to Maipu, where “The Roads of Wine” are located, take Bus 10 from the city center. The ride will take about 45 minutes and you can ask the driver where you should get off. Once you get to Maipu, begin walking north and make a right onto Gomez Street. Here you’ll find a charming house and sign that reads “Maipu Bikes.” Immediately upon entering the wrought iron gates and talking to the wife of the family-run business, we were offered a glass of fresh juice, handed a map and given an in-depth analysis of each winery. The bikes are 35 Argentine Pesos (about $8) to rent for the day. However, when the owner noticed I was staying at Hostel Mora she gave me a 10 ARS$ discount, so let them know what accommodation you’re staying at. Along with the bikes, we were given a bottle of water and backpack to keep our stuff in. With that and our map, we were prepared for a full day of wine tasting.There are 16 stops on the itinerary, including wineries; the Wine Museum; a beer garden; and opportunities to sample liquors, chocolates, olive oils, jellies, chocolates and, of course, vino. For tours and tastings you’ll usually have to pay about 20ARS$ (about $5), although there are some stops that have free offerings, such as complimentary admission and wine tasting at the Wine Museum and a free self-guided tour at Tempus Alba.
You can choose to start wherever you would like, although, I would recommend beginning at the Wine Museum to get a sense of the history and creation of the product. Here we got to browse contraptions from centuries ago that look more like torture devices than tools for making wine. We were also able to have a free tasting, and learn more about some of Argentina’s most famous wine-makers. From there, we went down the street to the family-run Viña María. I really enjoyed this place, as the girl working was a wealth of knowledge on wine in the area and educated us on how to pair our wine with food. The golden rule: drink what you think tastes good.
While all of the stops had something worthwhile to offer, such as llama-spotting at Trapiche and a tasting terrace with sweeping views of the vineyards at Tempus Alba, our favorite spot was definitely Entre Olivos. For 20 ARS$ (about $5), you’ll get a tour of the property, learn about olive harvesting and also see how olive oil is made. The best part, however, is the unlimited tasting that follows. Your first course is the olive oils and pastes, some of which include chardonnay mustard, olives with blue cheese, olives with garlic, chilli and different strengths of extra virgin olive oil. From there, you move on to the marmalade and jam table, tasting varieties like dulce de leche with coconut, apple with whiskey, pear with chardonnay, pumpkin with cinnamon and Malbec jelly. Next, it’s time to get a little tipsy, as you get to choose two shots from an array of liquors. Some of your options are dulce de leche, chocolate, spicy vodka, white chocolate, peach, pineapple and the strong-tasting Absynthe, which is served properly by lighting sugar on fire and adding it to the liquid.
And, if you still don’t feel as though you’ve sampled enough wine, you’ll be offered a complimentary glass of vino once you return your bike to Maipu Bikes. This was a great way to end the day, as we got to rest our tired legs while sitting outside in their peaceful yard. At this point, you will not only feel like a wine connoisseur, but also pretty budget-savvy, as your self-guided tour has cost you a quarter of the price of booking through an operator.