Argentina is a country of tremendous contrasts. From the sophisticated cities like Buenos Aires, to the epic wilderness of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, there’s a side of Argentina to appeal to just about everyone. Obviously a longer holiday in Argentina would give you the time to enjoy all the different regions of the country, but if time is tight then you could do much worse than head to a region which in many ways encapsulates everything that’s great about Argentina.
We’re talking, of course, about Argentina’s beautiful wine country. Roughly lying between the two cities of Mendoza and Salta, up in the far north and west of the country and bordered by the snow-capped peaks of the Andes Mountains, it offers beautiful scenery, cultured and sophisticated cities, and some of the best wine in the world!
Starting in the south, most people begin a trip into wine country with a flight to the city of Mendoza. Although it’s one of the biggest cities in Argentina, it manages to avoid feeling like that, and it’s characterized by its pleasant tree-lined avenues and pavement cafes. The grand squares of the center are joined by pedestrianized streets offering nice boutique shops, and the restaurants are arguably the best in the country. It’s also, of course, a perfect base for trips into the surrounding countryside.
Although you’re only a few miles from South America’s highest mountain, Aconcagua, Mendoza benefits from a Mediterranean climate and the land around the city is almost entirely covered by vineyards. In fact, the climate is absolutely perfect for viticulture, and vines have been planted here since the days of the conquistadors. Until the 1980s, almost all the wine Argentina produced was for local consumption and based on the Criolla Chica grape, although the first Malbec vines were also planted back in the 16th century.
From the 1980s onwards, Argentina’s wine producers began to develop new varieties aimed at the export market, and the classic Argentinian Malbec as we know it began to take shape. More recently, a further step has been taken away from mass-production of table wines for export, and Argentina has started to become a serious player at the world’s top tables. As well as people enjoying just a casual day’s wine-tasting as part of a longer holiday in Argentina, the vineyards around Mendoza are becoming one of the world’s major destinations for specialist Argentina wine tours, so you can really get to grips with the different bodegas and varieties.
There’s a lot more to Mendoza than wine tours, however, and if you’d like to enjoy some adventure sports on your Argentina holiday, then the mountains and rivers just a short drive from the city offer some of Argentina’s best white-water rafting and kayaking, as well as some great trekking opportunities. Serious climbers can attack Aconcagua and some of the other peaks in the area as well, although that’s strictly for the professionals and not to be attempted after a glass or two of Malbec.
Further north from Mendoza, the countryside starts looking like the backdrop to a Spaghetti Western – all red jagged rocks and giant cacti. This part of Argentina feels notably different to the rest of the country: more South American, somehow, and that’s a sensation that’s reinforced when you reach the city of Salta. In contrast to most cities in Argentina, Salta has kept its colonial centre largely intact and so it looks and if you’ve been on holiday elsewhere in South America, you’ll feel like you’re in Peru or Bolivia rather than Argentina. It’s one of the country’s most attractive towns, and in fact its nickname is “Salta the Beautiful“. It’s a lovely place to spend a day or so just wandering around, but the surrounding countryside also produces some of Argentina’s finest wines. The vineyards here are some of the highest in the world, and the focus is much more on white varietals than the reds further south, but the results are just as good: clear, crisp Sauvignon Blancs and the uniquely Argentinian Torrontes are the order of the day, and among the best in the world.
Argentina’s wine country gives you the chance to enjoy such a wide variety of experiences, all within easy reach of two of the country’s most attractive cities, that it’s really worth trying to include the area in your Argentina holiday. Companies like www.realargentinaholidays.com are specialists in tailor-made holidays in Argentina and can organize everything from specialist wine tours to longer holidays in Argentina that take in the wine country as part of a bigger trip.