Sheltered by the nearby Andes Mountains from the Pacific coast wind, Mendoza is perfectly situated for producing wine. Year-round sunshine makes for an abundance of quality grapes, especially its world famous Malbec. However, in addition to this heady red, Mendoza is also adept at producing a number of other exquisite wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Torrontes and Chardonnay.
Argentina is the sixth biggest wine-producing country in the world, and almost two-thirds of that produce comes from the Mendoza region. Unsurprisingly, then, the region is fairly expansive. It encompasses 350,000 acres and more than 1,500 different vineyards; as such, distances between vineyards can be fairly hefty and even in a car, attempting more than three or four vineyards in a day is impractical.
However, don’t despair; car isn’t the only way to take in the luxury and elegance that these vineyards offer. The three main regions – Luján de Cuyo, Valle de Uco and Maipú – are all reachable from the city centre and bike tours can be arranged of all them, visiting two or three different locations (or even more on independently-led tours).
A plethora of tour companies have sprung up in the Mendoza region, to cater with the growing tourism industry brought about by Mendoza’s surging reputation in the wine world. There are two established ways to go about biking Mendoza’s many vineyards: either a guided tour, led by a bi- or even trilingual guide and often including lunch; or simply renting a bike and creating your own unique route. Obviously, the latter option is the cheaper, though it really depends what you’re after.
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In the former category, Sergio Sanchi has received almost unanimously rave reviews on TripAdvisor for his one-day tour exploring either Luján de Cuyo or Valle de Uco. Whichever destination you pick, you will visit two wineries and indulge in a gourmet lunch at the second, complete with five different wines to go with five different courses.
Also in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza Wine Tours and Travel offer a three-vineyard tour of the quaint Chacras de Coria, also with lunch included, and all transfers and snacks part of the package as well.
If a hand-held guided tour is out of your price range, then budget options are available in all three of the main wine-producing areas in close proximity to Mendoza. Bikes and Wines have transfers to and from both Chacras de Coria and Maipú, with bikes available for either half a day or full day in either location. After paying the rental fee, you will be presented with a map of the town and the neighbouring bodegas and a bottle of mineral water and sent on your merry way. A family-run alternative in the heart of Maipú is Mr Hugo, who as well as providing all of the same services Bikes and Wines will also extend a welcoming hand, friendly advice and the opportunity to taste plenty of home-grown wine in his back garden at the tour’s conclusion.
Nuggets of Wisdom
Regardless of whether you take a tour led by a local or attempt a self-guided trip, you should make sure you are prepared for the road ahead. Here are some handy tips for your journey:
• Argentine roads are busy and not always well-maintained. Ask for a helmet from the tour company if you require one; they are not always issued as standard.
• Prepare for unpredictable weather. On the one hand, the baking sun of Mendoza will certainly burn your skin, so take plenty of sun-cream. On the other, Mendoza is also prone to impromptu showers, so a light rain jacket is a good idea. Furthermore, though cycling in the midday heat can raise your body temperature, the wine cellars are often cold and damp; a warmer layer is advisable to bring in a bag.
• Bring snacks, especially if attempted a self-guided tour. Wine + sun + strenuous exercise + empty stomach = recipe for disaster.