On Saturday we went on a half day outing to visit some of the local wine and olive farms in the Mendoza area. Mendoza is famous for its wines, most particularly its Malbec wine. Mendoza has a very interesting geography which enables it to produce some very good wines. Technically the Mendoza region is a desert, approximately 3 – 5% of its land is arable and a lot of this land is used to produce wine or olives. The area only receives about 200mm of rain per year, so it really is dry in that sense. The interesting thing is that, whilst there is little rainfall, there is a fair amount of water because of the run off from the surrounding mountains and some of the water comes in from the Andes which are not far away. The city is surrounded by the gigantic mountains, and their snow capped peaks can be easily seen, even though the actual mountain is 150km away. So we began our tour at a small family run wine farm, the vineyards were about 40 years old and the farm produced red wines and only 1 white wine. We tasted both, the white wine was really very good, slightly dry, but a little sweet and very refreshing. The red wine was good too.
We then moved onto an olive farm. This farm produces 1 million litres of Olive Oil per annum and that means that they harvest 8 million kilograms of olives in a year. We were quite taken aback at these stats, the farm certainly didn’t look that big, but that was their production. Most of the process now is automated, but we were shown the old way of pressing olives to extract the oil, quite laborious to say the least. At this farm they produced extra virgin olive oil and we were given some to sample and it was really good.
Our next visit was to another wine farm, they had produced and international award winning Malbec wine. This wine was made from a batch of grapes harvested in 1999 and the reserve made only 4200 bottles of which 166 bottles are left at the estate. The price for a bottle of this wine in Argentina would be the equivalent of R 580.00 and in the USA well over R 700.00 or R 800.00, needless to say we never got to have a taste of this. We did sample some of their red wine and Rose wine and both were really good especially the red.
Our last stop was at a church in Mendoza called the “Church of the Vine” This church is mostly frequented by local farmers from the area and hence they pray that their harvests will be plentiful and so Mary is depicted on a wagon with the farmers offering her grapes as an offering. The interesting aside here is that in 1861 Mendoza was struck by a huge earthquake and 60% of its inhabitants were killed. Almost the whole city was flattened by this quake, but miraculously (according to locals) the Church remained standing and was unharmed. The Church has become somewhat of an icon in the area and so we stopped to look in.