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Founded in 1561 the city of Mendoza is one of the most attractive provincial capitals in Argentina.  It prides itself not only on the cleanliness of its streets, well-kept parks and elegant tree-lined avenues but also on its historic heritage, the excellence of its wines and the beauty of the surrounding Andean landscape.  Set at the foot of the Andes in the Cuyo region, the town lies in a beautiful and fertile oasis formed by the Mendoza and Tunuyán rivers which also offer exciting white-water rafting experiences for the more adventurous. 

Although the colonial buildings built by the city’s founding fathers were destroyed by an earthquake in 1861 which left the city in ruins and a third of its population unaccounted for, there are nevertheless a number of museums and monuments which provide a fascinating insight into Mendozan history.

Mendoza offers tourists and visitors a broad choice of activities for adventurers, historians and epicureans alike and also ensures that their stay in the city is as charming and delightful as possible.  One of the details which strikes first-time visitors about the city itself is the deep irrigation channels which separate the pavement from the road surface, even on the main thoroughfares.  The network of some 500km of channels in total is the result of urban planning in street forestry, creating a green and shady environment by planting fragrant lime and plane trees along the avenues and ensuring they are properly watered in what is otherwise a very arid soil and dry climate.  It is precisely these particular conditions, however, which make Mendoza the wine province par excellence, producing some of the best wines in the world. 

A little historical background illustrates how this region, also the country’s leading producer of first-class olive oil, tomatoes, fruits and nuts, has become something of a myth in the wine-growing world.  When the Spanish conquistadores arrived in Mendoza, the region was occupied by the Huarpe native Indians in the Valle de Uco and the Northern region, while the Incas lived in Uspallata to the north of the Mendoza river valley and the Puelches further south.  The Huarpe tribe, pacific, agricultural and orderly in their lifestyle, impressed the Spanish with their ingenious irrigation systems in the Huentota valley which permitted them to cultivate corn and potatoes where the city of Mendoza now stands. As time passed, the irrigation system was expanded and the Spanish began to import other vegetables and fruit, including vines to plant in the region, developing a significant agro-industry at a time when there was little other agricultural activity of this nature taking place in the country.  

In 1811, the Spaniard Don Antonio Solanilla came to Mendoza bringing with him an image of the Virgin seated on a small cart with the baby Jesus in one arm and a bunch of grapes in the other, who, as tradition had it, once appeared to impoverished miners in the Spanish province of Aragón.  The Virgin and her bunch of grapes quickly became popular in Mendoza, and indeed, the legends tell that one night of terrible hailstorms the vine growers in desperation took her from her Chapel to
the vineyards, whereupon the storms immediately died down.  Thus, she became the patron saint of the Vine. 

In 1884, the Mendozan authorities decided to attract specifically those immigrants who knew about wine-growing and sent a representative to Europe to recruit specialists and workers from Italy, France and Spain.  The initiative brought many wine-growing families and entrepreneurs to the region with their treasured vines, families whose names now grace the labels on many a bottle.  However, no variety has enjoyed more success than the flagship Malbec, originally a French grape of little distinction which arrived in this country at the beginning of the 20th century and flourished beyond expectation under the Mendozan sun.  In the early 1980s, the Malbec underwent a revival when the trend for blended table wines turned towards single-grape varietals and the taste for Malbec as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Chenin and Sauvignon Blanc took off, together with the budding community of wine-enthusiasts.  Twenty years later, these grapes have been joined by other new-world favourites such as Syrah, Bonarda, Tempranillo and Viognier as well as the fruity local white Torrontes, winning prestigious international prizes and glowing recommendations from the world’s top wine-writers.  

Worthy of note is the wine harvest festival, la Fiesta de la Vendimia, the most important event on the Mendozan calendar which takes place in March and lasts a week.  Spectators are treated to folksong and dance performances from local and invited artists, floats and processions in honour of the Virgin of the Vine and the election of the National Queen of the Wine Harvest.

The province of Mendoza now boasts 550 wineries, from small boutiques to large-scale exporters, many of which are included in the recently-created Rutas del Vino, or Wine Routes, open to the public for a tour of their installations and a wine-tasting led by their wine-makers.


Florida 890 - piso 4 - (C1005AAR) Buenos Aires - Argentina
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