For us, there were two reasons to visit the area on Argentina called Mendoza. Wine and food (mainly steak). Only being a short flight away from Santiago in Chile, why wouldn’t we visit South Americas – and probably the worlds – most famous region of gorging on best in class cuisine surrounded by beautiful mountains and top weather.
Mendoza itself is a busy town surrounded by several wine valleys. As we only had a short time there we headed straight to the nearest valley, around 20/30mins away, called Maipu. There are several options to visit this valley, one is to jump on a bike tour costing around AR$ 2000-3500. They take you on a tour of wineries and tasty treats, a great way to meet new people and plus they organise it all for you. However this was a little pricey for us and we never like to do things the easy way and opted to hire out bikes and makes our own way around the valley.
Best bike hires in Maipu
We visited the valley twice and tried out both Maipu bikes and Mr.Hugos bike hires. Here’s our pro and cons list for you to decided which option suits you;
Maipu Bikes – cost AR$ 300
- Free map and suggestions of valleys with wine prices and tour guide times.
- The staff speak English!
- Happy hour with free wine and empanadas after 5pm …. Best highlight.
- Bike quality was not particularly great. Brakes were ok but the bike had no gears, so it’s tricky when cycling up and down the hills.
Mr.Hugos bike hire – AR$ 300
- Free map of the valley with vineyard suggestions.
- The bikes were fantastic. Solid gears and the gears to help ease you around the valley.
- Staff aren’t fluent in English.
Once you have your bike to time to start your tour! However here’s a couple of top tips what to take with you and what to expect ….
What to bring
- 2 litre bottle of water. It is very hot! This will become your best friend after the first couple of visits.
- Cash. You’ll need this’ll you take public transport back to town.
- Sunglasses. The roads can be very dusty so these will protect your eyes when dusty trucks go past you.
- Always wear a helmet, this should be given to you from your bike hirer. You will get drunk and may fall off your bike, this will be your best friend when that happens.
- Suncream. Again it’s hot and you’ll most likely get sweaty from the cycling so don’t forget to top up!
- Powerbank. For charging your phone. You’ll be instagramming loads no doubt!
What the guide books don’t tell you ….
- We both had an idyllic vision of cycling around the vineyards, birds tweeting in the back ground and some one casually handing out wine to us at every turn. Sorry to disappoint but will not happen! Cycling the vineyards of Mendoza is very dusty. Especially if you go during summer time but I’m sure winter will be more manageable. The roads you’ll be cycling on are normal roads so expect cars, vans and motorcyclist to be next to you. There are cycle lanes, however they are not set up all over the valley so be wary when cycling.
- Some vineyards are on the same road or even opposite each other. However be prepared to cycle 20/30 minutes between locations, especially if you have particular vineyard you are looking to visit. On average we found most people visited around 2/3 places in one day depending on when you start your tour.
- If you’re looking to have a fancy lunch in one of the vineyard try to do your research and book before hand. They get very busy plus a lot of them have a set menu, which usually the cheapest option and a wine with every course, so they usually prefer a pre booking for this.
- There is more than just vineyards! We spent one day exploring the olivecolas around the local area, see are notes shortly for some recommended suggestions.
Some of our favourite places
Beautiful setting for wine tasting with a variety to choose from (at a fantastic price) Small self guided tour but still very informative about the whole process. Overall a great starter for your wine tour and fairly close to other wineries on the same road.
Average glass of wine AR$ 45 -85
Six wine taster AR$ 250
This spot ticked all the boxes. We had a three course set menu for lunch which included a wine for every course. (very dangerous!) The best steak we had ever eaten was here as well!
After lunch we had a really detailed tour of the winery, showing the location of were the wine is stored to the crushing of the grapes as they come off the truck from being picked.
Three course meal with three wines – AR$ 850
Maguay – olivicola
If the wine tours become a little tiring – it is hard drinking and cycling around all day afternoon all! Then head to the olivicola. Many of the wineries do have their own olivicolas but the wine always takes centre stage with the tourists. There are many olivicolas to visit but this place is certainly the best with their enthusiasm for welcoming visitors, great English guides and a beautiful selection of olive oil to try. A must see.
Tour and taster AR$ 200
Mendoza was an amazing experience and a fun way to experience a gastronomically unique part of the country. If you do it carefully, it doesn’t need to break the bank. We needed a rest after all that biking and boozing!