With high altitude, the Andes mountains, 300 + days of sun per year, and rich soil of rock and clay, Mendoza’s geography makes it breathtakingly beautiful - a natural playground for adventurers and wine-lovers alike.
Beneath the towering Andes Mountains lies one of the world’s most extraordinary wine regions, in the heart of a hot and dry desert. The geography of Mendoza, with all its stones and sunshine, has propelled it to become one of the 10 Great Wine Capitals of the World.
Mendoza is in a large Andes rain-shadow. it is a dusty, arid countryside with young dry, rocky and sandy soils and only 200 millimeters of rainfall a year. With hot, desert-like climate by day, amplified in the summer, and cool mountain nights, it is perfect for making world-class wines.
The high altitude creates a unique microclimate that distinguishes Mendoza from the rest of the world, with vineyards planted at an average of 900 meters, and annual temperatures of 18˚C (65˚F). Due to very little rainfall, the Andes provide the most important source of water, via melted snow, controlled through an indigenous irrigation system of rivers and acequias (irrigation canals).
Mendoza City is a hub of activity. Most tourists stay in a hotel in the tranquilo (relaxed) city and depart from them into the wine regions or mountains in the morning, and return in the evening to enjoy outstanding gourmet dinners, perhaps followed by a night out at the boliche (dance club).
City streets are lined with Fresno, Platanos, and Morera trees that reflect and project the ever-present sunlight. No matter the season, sunset rarely occurs before 7:30 p.m.
The city also has an enormous park, Parque San Martin, as well as smaller plazas, where locals spend time with their friends and significant others.
But this pictoresque and cosmopolitan oasis has a rough history. A massive earthquake in 1861 destroyed the city and took out half the population, leaving Mendoza in rubble. Over time, Mendoza re-established itself and its legacy.
Godoy Cruz, Maipú, and Luján de Cuyo are all located in the central region 15 to 20 kilometers south of Mendoza city. These three regions (called departments) offer the most wineries in a single region. A range of wineries, including boutique, small, large, historic, traditional, and modern, give this region a great deal of diversity, as well as the vineyards planted from 650 to 1,050 meters above sea level.
Some of the best varietals from this region are Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Chardonnay. Malbec, of course, is the most famous grape.
Four kilometers outside of Mendoza city, 200,000 people live in Godoy Cruz, making it a sort of suburb of the city. The region offers a wide array of Argentine cuisine, history and winemaking. Godoy Cruz also has several festivals throughout the year that showcase the authentic Argentine lifestyle.
Chacras de Coria (within Lujan de Cuyo)
30 minutes outside of Mendoza city, this once small rural town now offers some of the best hotels and restaurants in Mendoza. With a suburban country town feeling, Chacras de Coria has slowly become a tourist favorite, offering the benefit of being close to the city, but the quiet atmosphere of being in the countryside. With art museums, wineries, tasting rooms, champagne houses and fine dining, Chacras de Coria offers a little get away from the typical Mendoza experience.
Lujan de Cuyo
40 minutes southwest of the city, Lujan de Cuyo has been long hailed the "land of Malbec". Wineries in this region offer unbelievable views of the mountains and Mendoza's vast wide open spaces. Inside the wineries, Malbecs receiving world-wide recognition as top quality are consistently made.
30 minutes southeast of Mendoza city, Maipu is one of the oldest wine producing regions in Argentina. With nearly 100,000 inhabitants, it provides a look at old-school wineries that have shaped the Argentine wine industry. While there are the fewest wineries available for tourism here of the three regions, Maipú offers scenic bike tours through its vineyard areas.
Considered one of the top wine regions in Argentina, and one of Travel & Leisure's 13 Hottest Places to Go in 2013, the Uco Valley is 75 minutes from Mendoza city. Its wine producing regions are Tunuyán, Tupungato and San Carlos. This region boasts the highest altitude vineyards in the region, with vines planted between 950 and 1,500 meters above sea level.
Although the youngest of all the wine regions, the Uco Valley is packed with modern wineries of all sizes and ages, with stunning architecture and design. Varietals that thrive in these high altitudes are Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Santiago, Chile is located between the Andes and the Chilean Costal Range in a bowl-like valley, 8 hours from Mendoza by car, and 30 minutes by plane. The climate is Mediterranean-like, with hot dry days and relatively cool mornings and nights. Due to its coastal location, it is known for its seafood. A regional favorite is Machas, a la Parmesana - razor clams with parmesan cheese.
Chile has many quality wine regions less than 400 kilometers out of the city. Atacama, Coquimbo, Aconcagua, Central Valley and Southern Chile are the top producing regions.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires is Argentina’s capital and largest city, with 13 million residents and 48 barrios (neighborhoods). Known as the “Paris” of South America, because of its European-inspired architecture, Buenos Aires offering diversity of cultural events, nightlife, restaurants to millions of tourists each year.
Located along side the bank of the Rio de la Plata, 13-17 hours driving from Mendoza city, and 1.5 hours by plane, Buenos Aires reminds many of Madrid, Spain and Paris. Beneath the busy lifestyle lays an unforgotten folkloric history that created the present day city. Puerto Maderno, San Telmo, La Boca, Palermo and Recoletta are all must see areas, offering a unique look into the city, from tango on the streets to antique fairs to shipyards.
Buenos Aires is one of the most diverse places in the world. With hundreds of theaters, opera houses, sports stadiums and museums, it's a great urban sidetrip for a weekend or more for Mendoza visitors.
The second largest city in Argentina, with 1.4 million inhabitants, 10 hours (driving) from Mendoza, Cordoba is located in the foothills of the Sierras Chicas on the Suquía River and known for its colonial style buildings and beautiful hills within the city. Córdoba has the oldest Universities in all Argentina. Students from throughout Argentina and all over the world come to Córdoba for higher education, making the city one of the youngest and liveliest. With art, science, technology and historic museums, 17th and 18th century design and architecture, Cordoba has a culture all its own.