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Turning 30 South American Style With the dreaded 30th birthday looming, I ran away to South America to celebrate the landmark birthday in style.

Magic Malbec Moments in Mendoza

ARGENTINA | Wednesday, 30 January 2008 | Views [1048]

The rain clouds are gathering outside and we are in a dimly lit barn looking at four glasses of red wine. They have been laid up in order for the perfect testing. Instinct tells us that there is probably some sort of etiquette to this and the two knowledgeable red wine raised women behind the bar are staring at us expectantly. After a few sips they ask us which one we like. We know there is a right answer and this being Argentina, heck Mendoza, it is probably Malbec. But the rebel inside me shouts just tell the truth. I say the young Tempranillo. I don´t know why, I just like it. Of all four, that was the only wrong answer. The knowledgeable lady with the sophisticated palate tells me that the right answer was Malbec. Tempranillo apparently is a light fluffy drink for people who know nothing about wine. That just about sums me up.
We were on a wine tour of the lovely vineyards that surround the Maipu area just outside of lovely leafy laid back Mendoza. Producing 70 per cent of Argentina`s wine, mostly Malbec, they stretch for miles. The young vines are surrounded by the Andes in the distance with antique sluice gates ferrying fresh mountain water dotted around the side streets. Steve was on his super dooper Specialized that has carried him across the continent, I hired my bike from Mr Hugo's Bike Tours, a family business run by the most amazingly friendly people. We went to the wine museum first, then a little chocolate shop then pedaled like fury down to the boutique wineries around 5km away, racing against an approaching storm. Cycling is fun when you have fine wine and chocolate liquor sloshing around in your tummy.
It was just lovely. We got to see the vineyards with all the grapes ready for harvest, learned how they sourced water from the Andes and cared for the grapes throughout their life cycle as if they were new born babies. Then we got to sample the finished product, some for free, some better wines for a small testing fee. Most places clock you for the chancer you are and are happy to pour a few drinks and let you knock them back. Others seem genuinely chuffed to have the job of making wine and really want you to appreciate their product. They will enthuse wildly about aromas, peppers, depth et cetera, so you just nod and smile and always say the Malbec is the best.
We were always against the clock owing to a mix up of meeting points that knocked a couple of hours off our day already, but the approaching storm added impetus as many smaller places needed all hands on deck to protect the grapes so closed their wee testing shops.
It finally caught us half way through a tour of the Carinae bodega, a really lovely place run by a couple from France. We were just learning about the owners fascination with astrology when the police arrived and told us we had to go with them. Apparently it is too dangerous to cycle in the rain. So our wine tour ended with the two bikes on the back of a police truck and us sandwiched between three of Mendoza`s finest armed officers. Fun, fun, fun.
 

Tags: andes, argentina, bike tour, bodegas, cabernet sauvignon, cycle, malbec, mendoza, tempranillo, vineyards

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