Come to Argentina for the bohemian charm of Buenos Aires. Come to Argentina for the unparalleled nature of Patagonia. But above all, come to Argentina for the wine. Sometimes called “The Napa of the South,” Mendoza is Argentina’s premier winemaking region, although the country has several. And within Mendoza itself, the Uco Valley is the Mecca for lovers of wine, in particular the region’s world-famous Malbec. Here we give you the inside scoop in our guide to the Uco Valley.
Location and geography
To the south of Mendoza along the famous Route 40, the Uco Valley is the most emblematic of the Mendocino viticultural regions. Along with the Luján de Cuyo and Maipú wine routes, Uco Valley makes up the most popular trio of circuits in the area. The Uco Valley is between 2,950–3,940 feet (900–1,200m) above sea level and has over 250 days of sun a year, with average temperatures of 57°F (14°C), making for a very long growing season, something of great benefit in the winemaking process.
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Sémillon, and Malbec are the grape varieties most common to the valley, but red varieties of Barbera, Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Merlot, and Tempranillo can also be found, as well as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Torrontés for whites. Situated at the foot of the Andes, it is bordered by the Cordón de Plata, a mountainous belt that acts as a beautiful backdrop for the rows and rows of vines, giving the vineyards in the Uco Valley an idyllic postcard setting, defined by the perpetually snow-capped peak of the Tupungato Volcano.
The valley is located to the west of the Tunuyán River, a watercourse which provides natural irrigation for the wineries in the area. The wineries in the Uco Valley follow Provincial Route 89, also known as “The Wine Road.” The best way to visit your choice of the valley’s best wineries is to rent a car, or if you want to swallow your wine samples instead of spitting them into the bucket, hire a driver to take you around.
What to do
This is a bit of a no-brainer: drink wine, of course! As you would expect, the Uco Valley has a developed tourism infrastructure, catering to the many wine-lovers who flock to the picturesque Andean setting to sample some of the world’s best wines. Wineries abound, and it might be worth doing your research prior to arrival if you are something of a connoisseur, as it can be difficult to choose from the array of bodegas on offer. Some of the biggest names in Argentine wines can be found in the Uco Valley. But to help you decide, here are some of our bodega highlights.
One of the most well-known of all Argentine wine brands, Salentein is known for its Malbecs and blends, one of the most famous being the Gran Valle de Uco Blend, a Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon mix. Try it in Salentein’s impressive bodega, which features a unique circular wine cellar where the oak barrels that age the wine are stored 26 feet (8m) underground. While you are there, visit the Killka cultural center and art gallery, housed in a contemporary yet vernacular building that responds to its desert-like context, fusing wine, art, and architecture under one roof. If you are won over by Salentein, spend the night at their charming posada, where you can take advantage of their swimming pool and eat delicious local produce, paired with iconic wines in the restaurant, nestled in between gardens and vineyards.
The Vines of Mendoza
An experience to be sure, The Vines of Mendoza was established in 2005 on 250 acres of land in the then-nascent wine region of the Uco Valley. Now stretching across more than 1,500 acres, The Vines of Mendoza produces not only some of the region’s best wines, but is home to some luxurious villas set in The Vines Resort and Spa, and also can boast one of Argentina’s most famous restaurants onsite, gastronomic enfant terrible Francis Mallmann’s Siete Fuegos. Explore the beautiful winery on foot, horseback, or by bicycle, and even partake in some winemaking yourself, as the vineyard offers guests the opportunity to work with onsite wine consultant Santiago Achával to make bespoke Malbec blends.
This winery, composed of three estates, is known not only for its production of Malbec, Syrah, and Sauvignon Blanc, but also for the amazing architecture of the winery itself, designed to represent the spirit of New World wines, and also to take advantage of its incredible Andean setting. The roof of the winery building is elevated on pillars and soars over the plinth below, creating an imposing silhouette against the backdrop of the mountains. O. Fournier also boasts the delectable Urban Restaurant, which offers a seasonal, six-course menu paired with the vineyard’s famous Urban, Bcrux and Alfa Crux wines.
Clos de los Siete
Spread across 2,100 acres of pristine Andean land, the four bodegas of Clos de los Siete come together to craft one signature, eponymously-named wine between them, then go their separate ways to make individual wines pertaining to each of the estates, cultivating the sense of a shared goal across the property. Malbec is the main wine produced, but incorporates the tastes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc to give the blend a unique depth and character. Tours of the vineyard are available and, as with many bodegas, you can experience the vineyards firsthand on horseback or by bicycle.
When to go
For many reasons, spring, summer, and autumn are the best times to visit Argentina, whether it be for a city stay or to experience Patagonia. Spring and autumn bring more temperate climes, and this is true also of Mendoza, as its exposed plains can make for hard going in the heat of the summer, especially if you decide to spend a lot of time outdoors. Make sure to bring light clothes for the afternoon, and something warm for the evenings when the temperature drops. Sunscreen is a must, as are comfortable shoes for walking around. And painkillers, in case the copious amounts of wine get the better of you in the morning! For those serious wine aficionados, head for Mendoza at the end of February until the beginning of March for the Harvest Festival, which takes place all over the region and culminates in parades and events in the city of Mendoza.
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