Now that you have your hotel sorted (see A Perfect Vineyard Stay in Argentina) what to do? Of course, the number one thing to do in Mendoza is a wine tasting tour. However, the region also has a number of other activities to help keep you from falling into a daily drunken stupor.
1. Malbec Wine Tasting
Mendoza is world famous for its wine, over 75% of the world’s Malbec comes from this region. Malbec originally comes from France and is one of the five main Bordeaux grape varietals, easily recognizable by its jagged, shark teeth leaves. For years, it was considered too intense to be drunk on its own, turning teeth and tongues black. It was also said to have a bad nose (fancy wine term for smell) or beak, which is how it got its name ‘mal bec’. Instead, it played an important supporting role in Bordeaux blends.
Until one fine day in 1868, a Frenchman looking to try out French grape varietals in South America planted Malbec in Mendoza. He discovered that the terroir (climate, soil, and terrain) was very different from France and perfect for Malbec to fully ripen. Argentinian Malbec took off like a rocket.
Trout & Wine Tours
I learned all this from the Trout & Wine tour company, which picked us up from our hotel at around 9 am and dropped us back just after 5 pm. We picked the Lujan de Cuyo wine tour, visiting four wineries: Vistalba, Renacer, Casarena and Mendel. Four winery visits are the maximum number you should do in a day. Honestly, 2-3 winery visits are much more advisable, but I was pleased to push myself to 4 since it was my birthday.
I was impressed by how modern and luxurious the Argentine wineries were compared to those I visited in Italy. Italian wineries, by comparison, are much more rustic and simple. The tour also included a fantastic lunch with the best steak I had the pleasure of eating during my Argentina trip. It really is true that you find the best restaurants the closer you go to the wine.
2. Action adventure
Mendoza is also fantastic for activities, with its Andes mountains backdrop, lakes and rivers. Argentina Rafting is a great company based in Potrerillos, offering a range of activities, including rafting, canopy, trekking, rappel, rock climbing, mountain biking, horseback riding, paragliding and skydiving! We did the rafting, trekking and rapel, which you can read about here.
3. Visit Mendoza’s City Centre
Mendoza’s city centre is great to visit but not to stay, because you’d only be missing out on staying in the beautiful Lujan de Cuyo. We went into the city for my birthday dinner and ate at a lovely Italian restaurant called Maria Antonieta. It’s run by the daughter of the famous restauranteur and owner of 1884, serving up mouth-watering Italian classics. You’ll note there is a strong Italian influence throughout Argentina. There was a lively bar street nearby but by that time we were so exhausted we decided to go straight back to the hotel.
4. Argentine Cooking Class
Wherever you travel in Argentina, you’ll hear about the cooking classes. Argentine food is delicious. Classes are a wonderful opportunity to hone your steak skills and learn how to make the perfect empanada!
With just three days in Mendoza, we didn’t have the time to take one here, but we did in Buenos Aires. It was called the Argentine Experience. Probably the most touristic version of an Argentine cooking class, but we freakin loved it. We played games, learned to make Argentine wine-based cocktails, competed for the best handmade empanada, ate excellent steaks, all finished off with DIY alfajores.
5. Explore by bike
Another awesome thing to do in Mendoza is to go for a bike ride. We ran out of time to do this one, although that was probably deliberate since George was never too keen on the idea. If you’re not lazy like George, the area is perfect for it. The hotel reception can help you out with hiring the bikes and showing you where to go. If I were to go again, I’d definitely prioritise this for a day.