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When I dreamed of biking round the Mendoza wine region, I conjured a scene of quiet streets and pretty landscapes. What I didn’t envisage was speeding cars and heavy goods vehicles. Combined with wine-soaked tourists and narrow roads, this could be a disastrous combination and, having not been on a bike in years, I must admit I was a little nervous. But by taking a few precautions and going it slow, we had a wonderful, relaxed day out. Here are our tips for a beautiful and safe day exploring Maipu and combining bikes and wine in Mendoza.
1. Check your bike
The most economical way to see the vineyards is by getting a bus to Maipu and renting a bike there. There are a few different bike companies, mostly situated on Urquiza.
We went with one just off the main stretch called Maipu bikes, which provided helmets and bikes with or without gears. There are lots of reports of faulty bikes so make sure you give yours the once over before you leave – check the brakes and ensure nothing looks like it’s about to fall off.
2. Be careful on Urquiza
Most of the roads are quiet and have enough space for bikes on either side. Some even have bike lanes, but there is one stretch of Urquiza road to be particularly wary of. Unfortunately it’s the main road that connects most of the vineyards. For part of the way, it’s fine but then the pavement disappears and the road narrows.
As a non-proficient biker, I found this a little sketchy but still manageable. Our tip would be to do this part of the journey in the morning before you’ve drank much wine. You can then do the stops nearer the bike companies in the second part of the day. Alternatively, you could use the bus to visit the wineries along this stretch.
3. Visit Maipu’s oldest winery
One of our favourite stops was Familia di Tommaso, the oldest vineyard in Maipu where they have kept the old distillery intact.
You can see and step inside the massive old brick wine vats…
…which have today been replaced by far less atmospheric aluminum versions, like the ones above at Tempus Alba.
The huge vats at Tommaso , which nowadays store wine bottles, used to be filled with wine. We felt drunk just imagining it.
Tommaso was also the prettiest winery we visited, with a charming cafe and outdoor seating looking out onto the vineyard.
During your visit you can also opt for an informative wine tasting of six of the company’s wines. We especially loved the final sweet desert bottle.
4. Be aware of time constraints
We didn’t get to Maipu until after 1pm, which meant we couldn’t fit in all that we intended. We were delighted with the places we did visit and they covered a good range (small winery, industrial winery, museum and olive farm) but we would have liked to make it to Trapiche, one of Mendoza’s biggest wineries. Unfortunately it only runs tours a few times a day and we got there 15 minutes late for the final one at 4pm.
Instead we went to Tempus Alba, another industrial winery, where you can do a self-guided tour that explains the wine making process. In the end, this probably suited us better as we like to go at our own pace, but if we’d have left an hour earlier we could maybe have done both (the bus from Mendoza takes around 30 minutes) . Also note that some of the wineries are closed on certain days so if you have a particular one in mind, contact them before to make sure they’ll be open.
5. Take your own time
At Tempus Alba, we also enjoyed trying six different wines over a tasty vegetarian sandwich. We were given the six tasters along with a description of each wine and were then left to try them at our own leisure. We turned this into a game where we tried each one and tried to guess its flavours before checking the original description.
I was delighted to get my ‘hint of plum’ detection correct until I realised I was reading the wrong description. We are definitely not connoisseurs but it was fun to have the opportunity to try and decipher the wines at our own leisure. The setting is also beautiful in a stylish bar with sweeping views of the winery’s vineyards.
6. Leave the Olive oil tasting until last
We originally intended to go to Entre Olivias first but swapped our route when we realised the museum next door was closed for lunch. This was a blessing in disguise as it proved to be the most potent tasting yet with a shot of absinthe to finish. We definitely wouldn’t have liked to start the day this way, especially considering the bikes and wine situation, but it was a wonderful way to end.
The friendly little olive farm produces its own oil, as well as artisanal olive pastes, chocolates, jams and liqueurs. We had a short tour explaining the different olive trees (there’s even one unique to Argentina) and the manufacturing process, and then finished with the tasting. The blue cheese olive paste was delicious, and the olive oil divine.
At the end, you can choose to try two different liqueurs out of an eclectic selection of around 20. We opted for a chilli flavour and the absinthe, but resisted the somewhat repellant tobacco option.
We hope this helps make your visit to Maipu both splendid and safe. Let us know if you have any other tips to add.