East of downtown Mendoza, Maipú department has a huge concentration of wineries, many of them open for tours and tasting. Weekday tours are the rule, but several are open Saturday morning and a handful on Saturday afternoon and Sunday. The Grupo 10 No. 182 colectivos reach several of these from Mendoza’s main bus terminal; they are arranged according to distance from the capital. Public transportation is cheapest, but guided tours or hired remises can make logistics simpler — and safer than driving.
One of Mendoza’s largest wineries, dating from 1898, López is an industrial facility that grows 95 percent of its own grapes on 1,060 hectares near the Uco Valley town of Tupungato; 90 percent of its output is for domestic consumption, while 10 percent goes for export. Its diverse line includes cabernet sauvignon, malbec, merlot, Sangiovese, pinot noir, chardonnay, chenin blanc, and semillón.
Hour-long guided tours, with fluent English-speaking guides, begin with a video and then cover the entire production process, from the arrival of the grapes to bottling and packaging, and end with a liberal tasting. On 48 hours’ advance notice, López arranges lunches or dinners for a minimum of four people, with unlimited wine. A new building, specifically for tours and tasting, has been under construction.
Bodegas López (Ozamis 375, General Gutiérrez, Maipú, tel. 0261/497-2406) is 13.5 kilometers from downtown Mendoza. Free of charge, tours take place hourly 9 a.m.–5 p.m. weekdays, hourly 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Saturday and holidays, and at other times by appointment only. English-language tours take place at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. weekdays and Saturday morning only.
Museo Nacional del Vino y la Vendimia
Seven blocks south of Bodegas López, the former Bodega Giol (Ozamis 1040) was once a major winery that has fallen into disrepair and awaits a major building project. Meanwhile, across the street to the south, the founding Gargantini-Giol family’s French Classic mansion is now the Museo Nacional del Vino y la Vendimia (Ozamis 914, tel. 0261/497-7763, firstname.lastname@example.org), offering a good historical summary of Maipú’s winemaking industry (guided tours US$0.25).
Unfortunately, when the province took over the winery for offices in the 1960s, it sold off most of the classic furnishings and painted over the original woodwork and zinc ceilings, but it has recently undergone a major renovation. Guided tours, with wine tasting, take place 9 a.m.–7 p.m. Monday–Saturday, 9 a.m.–3 p.m. Sunday.
Bodega La Rural
One of Mendoza’s largest wineries, with a capacity of 10.7 million liters and four vineyards scattered around the province, La Rural produces some of the country’s finest premium vintages in its Rutini line. On only 10 hectares (though it has vineyards elsewhere as well), its Maipú facility turns out red varietals including cabernet sauvignon, malbec, merlot, and Syrah, as well as chardonnay and gewürztraminer. It is now owned by the Catena Zapata group but operates autonomously.
Dating from 1885, La Rural is also one of the most popular wineries for guided tours, partly because of its remarkable Museo del Vino, a wide-ranging collection of antique winemaking technology. The museum includes vehicles like tractors and trucks, plus horse carriages of many kinds, and also has a well-integrated first-rate tasting room and an art gallery.
Despite capable guides, tours can be disappointing — and excruciatingly slow — because La Rural’s popularity means groups as large as 50 people. Avoid holidays, in particular, and try to go early in the morning in hopes of joining a smaller group.
Bodega La Rural (Montecaseros 2625, Coquimbito, tel. 0261/497-2013) is open 9 a.m.–1 p.m. and 2–5 p.m. Monday–Saturday, closed Sunday and holidays.
Bodega Viña El Cerno
It’s tempting to call Viña El Cerno the anti–La Rural, as this tiny boutique winery’s annual production is fewer than 10,000 bottles each of malbec, cabernet sauvignon, Syrah, merlot, and chardonnay, plus some sparkling wines. Genuinely charming, its aged brick cavas hold barely a dozen visitors, but the guides are gracious and its ample tasting facility — guides also instruct guests how to go about it — is ideal.
Viña El Cerno (Moreno 631, Coquimbito, Maipú, tel. 0261/481-1567) is about seven kilometers south of La Rural on the same bus line. It’s open 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Monday–Saturday.
Bodega Familia Zuccardi
One of Mendoza’s biggest wineries, Zuccardi is a mass producer of fine wines for export as well as table wines for the domestic market. Well-organized tours allow visitors to taste its standards and even test varietals, such as pinot grigio and marselan, being produced in small batches only. English-speaking guides are readily available. If there’s any criticism, it’s that the winery itself is less architecturally striking than some newer competitors.
Zuccardi also hosts one of the local industry’s biggest events, mid-November’s Degustación Anual, where the company sets up a series of tents showcasing its diverse wines, including some of their experiments. For a modest fee, public admission gains the right to almost unlimited sampling, to the accompaniment of live music and other entertainment.
Bodega Familia Zuccardi (RP 36, Fray Luis Beltrán, Maipú, tel. 0261/421-0000) offers guided tours (US$4 pp) on a drop-in basis 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Saturday and 9:30 a.m.–3 p.m. Sunday. There are also specialized tours, such as a Wednesday cycling and tasting excursion through vineyards, and hot-air ballooning. As it’s one of the farthest wineries from downtown Mendoza, public transport is awkward, and a taxi costs around US$40 round-trip.
Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Argentina.