The main reason most people seem to visit Mendoza is for the wine. The wine and more specifically touring all the vineyards in Mendoza which make the amazing wine. At least that’s how it seemed talking to people before I arrived, so the first thing to sort out was a tour of the vineyards.

Before me and Steve parted company he’d gone off to Mendoza for a couple of days and done the vineyard tour – I’d passed up the opportunity on the grounds that it was too much to squeeze it in on my budget. So I had a bit of inside knowledge from Steve’s trip before arriving in Mendoza. That didn’t stop me forgetting the name of the bike hire shop they used instead plumping for a tour operator a block away from our hostel which it turned out was a rip off; bikes and wine – or something else equally Ronseal – was the name of the company. Way more expensive for no apparent reason. DOH.

I’d teamed back up with Kari and Laura (Ilha Grande crew), who’d just come to Mendoza from Salta. We were all up for the tour and once we’d (finally) been driven to the bike place from the agency and been given our shitty black and white photocopied map, we set off.

We discovered that there were 12 potential vineyards to visit, the furthest being about 12km away – so we had around a 25km cycle ride ahead of us if we wanted to see that one. Sore heads and bums were on the cards if we survived the day it seemed. We made a very loose plan to visit the 3 place nearest first, they were close and in a different direction to the rest. Once we’d ticked them off we’d head for the vineyard furthest away and work our way back. Sounded fool proof.

The first place we stopped at was shut, so we headed for the second stop which was the wine museum. The museum wasn’t the most inspiring place. It seemed mostly just to be a massive collection of dusty old tools and barrels, but there was a women leading a tour giving long and detailed explanations for each dusty artefact. I got the impression better Spanish would not have made me any more interested. There didn’t seem to be any free wine on offer so after a little while we snuck out and got back on our bicycles. The final leg of this little run was much more interesting. It was a vineyard that produced not only great wine, but also olives, olive oil, various other food stuffs and hard liqueur – including Toulouse Lautrec’s favorite poison, absinthe! It was a small place considering the variety of produce, but in taking the tour it became clear that whilst they had a wide range none of it was produced in bulk. The wine’s we tried were nice, nothing that memorable to be honest – but some of the food was fantastic and it turned out to be the only stop where we actually took something away. I bought a little jar of Jalapeño preserve – nice and fiery. Kari took away some jar’s of flavoured Dulce de Leche which was amazing. We did try the absinthe too, after a very theatrical pouring and flaming. It was as severe as you’d imagine and I only had a sip, we still had 24km to cover after all!

So far so good, but we now had to tackle the 12km’s to the furthest vineyard. The roads for this journey were going to be pretty treacherous in sections too it turned out. In fact the surrounding area was not at all what I’d expected. When you think vineyard tour, for me it’s going to be country lanes and rolling countryside. Where we were in Mendoza was more main roads and run-down suburbs – and huge sections of roadworks with tarmac-less uneven surfaces. It certainly made things more exciting anyway.

It took us about half an hour to make our way to the end of the circuit and what we found was a really nice, much bigger vineyard that looked very well set-up and maintained. I don’t remember the name of it now but the branding was all lunar themed with maps of stars and planets, it was really nicely done. We had a tour of the warehouse which stores the barrels and learned a little bit about the place, before we set about tasting their wines. We went through four varieties, 3 reds and a rose. What was strange to me was that the reds were served slightly chilled. We asked about that and she said the optimum temperature is 17° C, but I’m used to drinking red wine at room temperature and for me, it had a negative effect on the taste drinking them slightly colder. They were very nice never-the-less and we stopped for a snack once we’d polished them off. I also noted that I was drinking more of it than the two girls who were much more sensibly tasting and spitting mostly.

We found another closed vineyard before we made it back up the road to a huge and very rich looking place with security on the door. This seemed like the Microsoft of Mendoza wine, perfect presentation and cash rich but ever so slightly sinister with their locked gates and huge vats! Perhaps this is why at the end, realising we’d joined without paying, we felt comfortable – cocky even – slipping away without settling the debt. Unfortunately the security guard did his job and sent us back red faced to collect the receipt you needed to get back out. We eventually got on our way £2.50 lighter.

In total we stopped at 6-7 vineyards and tried some really great wine. The nicest was probably at the last place we stopped where we also had a bit of food. Again, I wasn;t taking notes so I have no names to recommend, just look for the place with the Swiss Italian sommelier and really good steak sandwiches.

I’d suggest getting out to where the vineyards are independently and renting a bike from one of the places there, it;s much cheaper than booking a tour from in town and it seems you get much better maps too. If you’re in Mendoza though, you really have to do it, it’s a great day out (and they may have finished tarmacking the roads by then too).