My two favourite things…

Written by Stuart Revnell No Gravatar

Yesterday we took a bus out to Maipu, the biggest wine making region in Argentina, with 1,200 wineries producing 70% of the country’s wine.

We hired bikes from Bikes and Wines, who seem to have the market cornered in combining two of the most pleasant things on earth – cycling on a lovely sunny day, and drinking fine wine.

We visited the newest winery belonging to Trapiche, one of the biggest winemakers in Argentina, who in 2005 purchased a wonderful old winery built in 1912, restored it and put in modern production facilities, and now run informative tours and tasting sessions alongside the wine production.  They’re one of only two winemakers in the region who are growing vines using ‘bio-dynamic’ technology, which is apparently one step beyond organic, and emphasises viewing the soil, plants and animals which live on the land as one big ecosystem, the health of which is necessary for a good harvest.  The sowing and planting calendar is also apparently aligned to astronomical cycles.

The tour was really interesting – we learnt that on average, each oak barrel costs $1,000 and is used for four years before being sold, the difference between American oak versus French oak (the former produces more intensely flavoured wine), the fact that a winemaker has to study for six years to qualify, and that there are four winemakers who have to agree on each wine in the Trapiche winery before it goes to market.  The winery produces 250 million bottles a year, and exports to ninety countries – big business indeed.

We tasted three wines, and the undisputed highlight was Trapiche Profuso 2008, a fortified Malbec, designed to be drunk with blue cheese, for example.  By this point, lightly merry and surrounded by fine oak barrels filled with fine wine, Jane and I were already thinking along the same lines – maybe we could study for six years and start a winery.  Our guide pointed out the financial barriers to entry though, with his quote, “You have to have a big fortune to make a small fortune.”  Consumption of wine was to remain our only engagement with it, sadly.

After that, we cycled down to Tempus Alba for a self-guided tour of another facility, then another tasting session and some lunch on a delightful rooftop terrace overlooking the snow covered mountains in the distance.

When we left, we got our own police escort up to the main road (they’re not worried about drink-cycling, but more about tipsy tourists being mugged, I suspect), and ambled slowly, and happily back as the sun was going down, before catching the bus back to Mendoza.  One more steak and some more red wine, and another enjoyable day in Argentina came to a close.

All this will sadly have to end soon though, I’m sorry to say.  We’re heading up to Puccalpa in Peru to start a seven day ayahuasca retreat at Tierra Vida Healing in just under a month (more of this later), and part of the preparation is to cut out alcohol, pork, sugar and greasy foods for two weeks beforehand.  We’re now both feeling the cumulative effects of the fine food and wine we’ve had on tap since New Zealand, with Argentina particularly difficult (bread and tapas to start every meal, huge portions, a tray loaded with carbohydrates on every bus journey, croissants and nothing else for breakfast in hostels…), so it’s not a moment too soon.  Still, it’s not going to be half us much fun.

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