Mendoza is an incredible wine region to visit and visually it’s one of the world’s most spectacular. The Andes make an impressive backdrop to the vineyards that stretch as far as the eye can see. This is Malbec country after all. Here, the French grape dominates the region, making up 85% of the vineyard area, and making Argentina the number one producer of Malbec. With 360 days of sun per year, a dry climate and irrigation from the mountains, Malbec is very much at home here.
But if you’re expecting to find the wineries while driving yourself, it is going to be harder than you think. Even if you have a GPS, many of the winery locations are not listed. We found street signs hard to find in certain parts, maps are inaccurate and even if you have a good map, it is still not easy to find them.
Here are some tips for visiting wineries in Mendoza:
- Appointments are mandatory. Most of the bodegas have security and you’ll need appointments and identification. At one winery I even got asked for my passport, (a first!) so make sure you have this on you too.
- Although there are about 1,500 wine producers in Mendoza, only about 10% of bodegas open for visits. Keep in mind many of them are very small or don’t have a focus on visits. There are however many large wineries who are geared for visitors and have tours including Bodega Norton, Bodega Salentein, Catena Zapata etc.
- Allocate more time than you need to find the winery. I’d say at least 40 mins to an hour more than you think just in case. You WILL get lost.
- Get GPS coordinates if possible. Some of the wineries are not even on Google so it may not be possible. In this case you just have to use maps and know where to turn off.
- Study maps closely take the time to figure out the layout of the area. There are several wine regions within Mendoza. (We visited Luján de Cuyo, Maipú and the Uco Valley/ Valle de Uco) and the region is quite spread out.
- Do not try to do too much. Three winery visits in a day can even be a lot. I’d say do two visits per day.
- Do not trust road signs. We saw signs for wineries that were literally miles away. It seems like wineries who pay for them get road signs. Some very big ones like Catena had no road signage. Sometimes signs are turned around so you will miss the turnoff.
- Get ready to ask people. Even if your Spanish is terrible (like mine) if you are close to where you need to be ask them to draw you a map.
- Get ready to drive on dirt roads. Unlike other parts of the world, many roads here are not paved. It does not mean you are going the wrong way. The region infrastructure is just not as established as other places.
- Price out a car and driver, compared with the car rental. If you are only doing a couple of tastings it may actually be better to do a private car and you will save yourself headaches trying to find wineries.
- It is no fun wine tasting if you are starving. There are no restaurants as such in the wine regions, but many wineries do have restaurants. Make sure you plan a winery with a restaurant around lunch time and make a reservation for lunch. We had a fantastic lunches at Bodega Norton in Luján de Cuyo region at Clos de Chacras in Chacras de Coria and at Atamisque’s restaurant in the Uco Valley . Eating outside and sampling the wines with food is a fantastic way to experience Mendoza.
Getting to Mendoza:
Mendoza (MDZ airport) is located in the heart of Argentina and is a 1.5 hour flight from Buenos Aires (use AEP airport). The wine region is actually closer to Santiago, Chile, which is a great entry point into Mendoza. It takes an hour to fly from Santiago to Mendoza.