Wine and Olives
Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
187Trip End Ongoing
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Expensive protective netting systems are however distinctly evident on acres and acres of the area's vineyards and are removed only twice- yearly for pruning and harvest
No traveller or tourist in Mendoza leaves without visiting at least a few of the local bodegas, so we planned our stay to take in several tours, and of course the "obligatory" samplings! The Mendoza area with its charming vineyards produces about three quarters of Argentina's wines, and until recently they were all consumed in-country. After all, with prices starting as low as Cdn $1.00 per bottle, it's cheaper for locals than drinking water! Although famous for its Malbec reds and Torrontés whites, export of Argentinean wines continues to be limited to a few specific labels such as 'Trapiche' and the organic wines, "Buenas Ondas", which are now even available in Ontario LCBO outlets.
The contrast between bodegas is quite remarkable, and we were pleased to have included both the very old and the ultra modern
Perhaps less well recognized, but equally interesting, are the olive processing plants in the province. Similar to our experience in San Rafael, we observed small producers transporting their harvest to Laur - one of the nearby olive factories. As with the wineries, the ancient wooden processing equipment had been set aside to make way for the ultra-modern stainless steel oil extraction units. A guided tour left us with some very interesting titbits: large olives have less oil than small ones (and are therefore mainly preserved whole); the colour of the oil (greenish to golden) depends on the variety only and is no indication of quality; the earlier harvested olives contain less linoleic acid, so combined with a cold press result in the best grade extra virgin oil; later harvested olives and pressing with heat produces distinctly lower quality of oil.....and so on. Now if only we could retain some of these facts for our next game of Trivial Pursuit!!
Since we are not particularly attracted to large cities - and lest you think that we spent our entire stay in Mendoza sampling wine and olives - we hasten to point out that we quite enjoyed the downtown garden plazas as well as the Parque General San Martin. An area of 350 hectares, this latter park boasts over 50,000 trees - quite a feat for a desert expanse. The "icing on the cake" might be an apt description for the massive ornamental iron gates separating the park from the downtown. Forged in England, these imposing portals were originally fashioned for a Turkish Sultan, but were brought to Mendoza in 1907. We decided to reserve a day during the week to explore the park, leaving Sunday for the Mendocinos who flock there and manage to cover almost every square inch of the park on their day of rest.