Bicycle wine tour – Adventures across Argentina

by Dan Fey on May 9, 2012

After two weeks in Argentina, I’ve hiked nine hours from day to night in Patagonia, hitchhiked six hours with a gas truck driver who spoke only Spanish, and spent a day touring and tasting wines via bicycle. These adventures have allowed me to understand just a taste of Argentina’s beauty and amazing culture.

In this last of three posts about these adventures, enjoy a tour of Mendoza’s world famous wineries on a bicycle!

Mendoza Wine Tour

Our bike wine tour group posing among barrels

Carly and I woke up around 9:30am and cooked a quick egg breakfast. At 10:30 in the central Plaza Independencia, we met up with Amy and Cam, Aussies from our hostel in Bariloche.

After hailing a cab, we were off to find Mr. Hugo, a bike rental shop we all heard about many times. We wondered why Mr. Hugo was the man to go to.

Our cab took us about 15 minutes out of town and then turned down a small road into some trees. We started seeing grapevines on both sides of the narrow road and got excited. About five minutes later, the road opens up, and we see the sign for Mr. Hugo. We pay the driver and walk in.

The first thing we see are groups of backpackers sitting around tables with cups of red liquid, including two French Candian guys from our hostel in Mendoza.  Next, a guy walks up with a jug of the same red liquid and pours a cup for each of us:

“Quieres vino? I am Mr. Hugo.”

“Si!”, we all exclaimed, and we knew we were in the right place.

Mr Hugo´s Bike Wine Tour Rentals

All of us sharing wine at Mr Hugo´s bike wine tour rental shop

Carly, Cam, Amy, the two Canadians and I sat down and shared some bottom of the barrel, unfiltered “cat piss” wine around 10:30am, as Cam called it. We thoroughly enjoyed it.

A few minutes later, a young guy working there gave each of us a yellow paper with a map of the area and explained to us each of the wineries on the map:

“This one is free; this one is the biggest in Argentina; this one is the oldest…”

We took copious notes, starring the free wineries.

We devised our game plan: stop at the free winery and olive oil boutique producer to the north, and then bike down to the furthest winery south, working our way back. This way we wouldn´t have to ride our bikes 10km back after drinking all of the wine.

We shared anothre cup of wine as Mr. Hugo fitted us with bikes. And we were off, a gang of bikes in search of wine on a beautiful sunny day. We were not the only gang. Many a backpacker and vacationer were riding around as well.

La Rural Wine Tool Museum

La Rural Wine Tool Museum, our first stop

Our first stop was Museo del Vino “La Rural”, a free winery and museum. We entered and there were huge barrels of wine through a corridor. After, was the tasting room where they poured each of us a glass of red wine. It was a malbec.

Malbec wine is the national variety of Argentina, half of which is grown in Mendoza. I find the Agentine malbecs to be dry and flavorful, but smooth – somewhere between a merlot and a cabernet sauvignon. Malbecs have grown to be my favorite type of wine.

Past the tasting room was a winemaking tool museum with lots of old grape presses, corkers, and fermenters. We drank our wine and continued on.

Next was Chocolateria “A la Antigua”, a boutique olive oil and chocolate producer. For 20 ARS ($5 US), we got a tour of the back yard with a few different types of olive trees, tastings with bread of all their olive oils, dulces de leche (spreads made from milk and sugar), james, chocolate, and two shots of flavoried or distilled liquors.

With our bellies satisfied and our bodies relaxed, we started riding back to continue our way south. We couldn´t resist another stop at Mr Hugo´s for some more free wine. We snacked on some nuts as well.

Trapiche Winery

Trapiche Winery, Argentina´s largest and most famous winery

After Mr Hugo´s, we stopped at Bodega Trapiche, the largest and most famous winery in Argentina. For 35 ARS ($7), we first had a tour first and then tastings. Our guide explained as we walked around the facility that it was founded and built in 1912 among vineyards and olive orchards, sold by the family in 1970, and abandoned until Trapiche bought and restored the facility in 2006.

We walked into a room where the premium wines were aged in very expensive ($3k US) oak barrels from Eastern US or France.

From there, we went to a beautiful tasting room overlooking an olive orchard. The guide poured each of us four generous tastings, starting with a sauvignon blanc making our way through a malbec and cabernet sauvignon, and onto a dessert wine. My favorite was the malbec.

Trapiche Olive Orchard

Trapiche´s olive orchard outside of the tasting room

We slowly walked back to our bikes. We really enjoyed Trapiche and must have spent an hour and a half to two hours there.

The wine road of Mendoza

Our 45 minute ride to Bodega Carinae was lined with beautiful trees and vineyards

We took our bikes about 45 minutes to the last winery, which felt like an eternity. It was a small, French, boutique winery called Bodega Carinae. The owners, having a fascinations with astronomy, named the winery and all of the wines after star constellations.

In addition to the paid tasting, the winery also offered cheese and salami. Starving from the bike ride, we ordered two cheese and two salami plates with our flight of tastes.

The cheeses and salami were home made right next door. They were very strong, but absolutely delicious, especially when paired with the wines. I don´t know if it was because I was hungry or a little tipsy, but the is probably first time I really appreciated wine and cheese.

Bodega Carinae was another of the lengthier stops, and we had to get going back before the sun went down. All of the wineries were closing anyway.

We took one last stop at Bodega Familia Di Tommaso, Mendoza´s oldest winery and one of the oldest wineries in Argentina built in 1869. The winery had old brick vats, which are now replaced by steel and only used to store bottles.

Brick wine vats of Bodega Familia Di Tommaso

Brick wine vats at Bodega Familia Di Tommaso, one of the oldest wineries in Argentina

We went into one of the vats and downstairs where we learned about the history and how the winery was built to be earthquake proof using modern techniques at the time.

After the tour, we had a flight of three tastes. By this point, our palates were shot, but the wines still tasted good.

We rode our bikes all the way back to Mr. Hugos, and you guessed it, drank some more free wine before catching the bus back into Mendoza.

Have you been on a wine tour?  If so, where?  If not, where in the world would you go on a wine tour?  Leave a comment here.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jen May 28, 2012 at 9:43 pm

Dan, sounds like you are having a blast. I remember Mr. Hugo well and did almost the same tour as you. He was such a blast. It’s fun reliving my trip through your blog. Stay safe and don’t carry your passport around anymore!


dan May 30, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Thanks Jen! Glad you were able to relive the experience. I’ve definitely learned some good lessons while traveling.


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