Viva Argentina: From wine tasting in Mendoza to tango in Buenos Aires

Argentina’s rich culture, wine variety, large and varied landscape, great sporting achievements, tango and dramatic history mean this is a country that can boast of attractions to entertain even the most discerning visitor.

Some associate this grand nation with fast and furiously played football, others with its history of fearless female leaders, the former First Lady Eva Perón and current President Cristina Fernandez. Visitors from all over the world come to sample the fine cuisine on offer including the famous Argentinian beef asado (roasted) from a parrilla (grill) restaurant, washed down with a bottle of Mendoza’s excellent wine. Others prefer to chase down some sultry ArgentineTango – renowned as the world’s ultimate romantic dance – in the lively, bustling back streets of Buenos Aires.

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Wine Time
The Argentine wine industry has long been among the largest outside Europe, and the country is the fifth most important wine producer in the world, with the annual per capita consumption of wine among the highest. The Mendoza region, an arid province that lies to the North East of the country, has numerous bodegas nestled in the shadows of the Andes and is at the heart of Argentinian wine making. It is most famous for its variety of Malbec grape, which although it has its origins in France, has found an ideal environment in the Province of Mendoza to successfully develop and become the world’s best Malbec wine. Mendoza accounts for 70% of the country’s total wine production, and provides many variations of ‘wine tourism.’ Visitors also flock to Mendoza to experience the impressive landscape of the Cordillera de Los Andes and the highest peak in the Americas, Mount Aconcagua, at 6,952m (22,808 ft) high.

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Many of the major bodegas (Norton, Rutini etc.) offer tours and wine-tasting events are extremely common in the area. There are a large number of operators offering organised tours of the vineyards, but you can also do it independently – although if you are, it is advisable to book in advance as many bodegas only open for pre-arranged visits and are closed at weekends. You will find plenty of information in the culture section of local newspapers or by asking around. A preferable period to visit is during harvesting in March and April, and if you choose to stay in the city, the famous winemaking regions of Luján de Cuyo and Maipú are a mere 100km away.

These areas also produce Mendoza’s most famous varieties of Malbec as well as impressive Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots. Anoek Petit,Travel Consultant at Sunvil Traveller, explains why Argentina has become such a great wine country: “One of the main factors is the ideal conditions for grape growing in the area – dry, keeping it from many of the diseases found in other wine regions, differences in altitude due to being close to the Andes, which makes for more solar radiation through a cool temperature, and takes advantage of the andean runoff for irrigation. these ideal conditions allow argentinian wines to be of a high quality. ” although your plan may be to get lost in the sprawling vineyards or to tackle the daunting Mount aconcagua, ensure you also make time to explore the city itself – to miss this would be a mistake.

For starters, Mendoza city far exceeds expectations of what to expect from a municipal with a location in the middle of a desert. this lively, bustling city is bursting with greenery and impressive fountains thanks to the acequias (irrigation ditches) that run beside every main road. there are plenty of sprawling piazzas – five in total – lined with cosmopolitan cafés and bars serving a mixture of cocktails and empanadas to satisfy every palette.

Take time to sample all the staples of Argentinian culture – drink Malbec from Maipú, enjoy grilled argentine meat and try the tango – but remember the party doesn’t start until late!

All Hail Buenos Aires
No doubt your trip to Argentina will include its magnificent capital city, Buenos Aires – the cultural and historic centre of the country. Anoek agrees: “Buenos Aires is very elegant, with a lot of green space for such a metropolitan city. It is home to the Pink House (the Argentinian version of the White House), the tango, galleries and designer shops, colonial architecture and the brightly coloured houses of the la Boca neighbourhood.”

Most of Argentina’s activity is concentrated in this single city, which boasts a wide range of nightlife, restaurants and pubs to ensure you will be completely spoilt for choice. There are three million inhabitants and 48 districts called barrios (neighbourhoods).

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What Else Does Argentina Have To Offer?
If you have given yourself enough time to properly explore this great country – and you should – other highlights include the Iguazu Falls, Argentinian Estancias, the Lake District, Peninsula Valdes, El Calafate and Ushuaia. Anoek urges travelers to pay a visit to the Iguazu falls in particular: “This is one of the world’s most amazing waterfalls and is twice the size of Niagara. The 275 falls thunder down from a height of 82 metres and stretch for more than one and a half miles. The falls can be viewed from both the Argentinian and Brazilian sides.”

The Argentinian estancias range from traditional cattle ranches, farms and plantations, to elegant villas and country houses. The majority are located in the pampas, a vast area of land stretching inland from Buenos Aires for hundreds of miles.

In the Lake District you can experience great tranquility among the glacial lakes, snow-capped mountains and dense Northern Patagonian forests (home to four National Parks). An area of exquisite natural beauty stretching along 30 crystal lakes that vary between aquamarine blue and emerald green, with a backcloth of majestic extinct volcanoes traversed by silent forests, it offers a magical way to enter a pristine, timeless environment.

If you want to get up close and personal with wildlife, Anoek recommends Peninsula Valdes: “This is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most significant marine reserves on the planet. Large colonies of Magellan penguins can be observed at close quarters from September to March. Between June and December, daily whale- watching boat trips take place, and between August and April, sea lions and elephant seals may be seen. Bird life is abundant with plenty of eagles, owls and lesser rheas. Guanacos scatter this wild territory.”

The town of El Calafate is the base for exploring Los Glaciares National Park and the monumental glacier of Perito Moreno. This glacier has a surface of 257 square kilometers and stands a towering 50-70 metres high, while reaching a depth of 137 metres. There are many platforms and trails from where you can view the glacier and hear the ice cracking continuously.

Ushuaia is the world’s southernmost city. With elements of a frontier town with an indigenous heritage, it has increasingly adapted to its modern position as a focal point for the exploration of the subpolar region. Apart from cruises to Antarctica, you may explore a cruise along the Beagle Channel or to Punta Arenas in Chile.

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