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Wine tourists strike gold on the backroads of Mendoza

Source: Toronto Sun
By: Robin Robinson
10.03.2010

MENDOZA, Argentina -- "Great wine is an expression of somewhere," says winemaker Nicolas Audebert of Cheval des Andes.

In this case that somewhere is the foothills of the Andes, where the strong sun, high altitude and pure water of Mendoza province produce a very fresh, very fruity, very young but complex wine that pairs well with food, he says.

Cheval des Andes is a high-end line produced jointly by Bordeaux's famous Cheval Blanc and Argentina's Terrazas de los Andes, part of the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey group. The presence of such international heavy hitters in Argentina indicate how far the country's once-fledgling industry has come.

Barely on the radar in the 1980s, today Argentina is the world's fifth-largest wine-producing nation. Most of the industry is based in Mendoza, which is home to more than 1,200 wineries, many of which are family owned, offer English speaking guides, tastings and restaurants.

With so much choice, a tourist could get happily lost on the backroads -- or caminos de la bodegas -- for weeks.

So plan on taking a tour and put these wineries high on your go to list:

Finca Decero: An architecturally impressive winery producing hand-crafted, single vineyard wines. The restaurant is open weekends and there are interesting programs such as Wine and Astronomy. See decero.com.

Lagarde: Founded in 1897 and run by the Pescarmona family, this winery produces an array of high quality nicely balanced wines from both traditional and nontraditional grapes. Vintages are exported to 40 countries, including Canada. See lagarde.com.ar.

Luigi Bosca: Housed in a distinctive Dutch-style building this family run winery has a 110-year history and a modern visitor centre for tastings. Don't miss the 14-panel mural that relates the Stations of the Cross to the steps of winemaking. See luigibosca.com.ar.

Terrazas de los Andes: Started as an experiment in the 1950s by Moet & Chandon, this was the famous Champagne producer's first winery outside of France. Today it makes premium wines and offers tastings, tea and a guest house. See terrazasdelosandes.com.

Accommodations: Located in the Mendoza city-centre, the Park Hyatt Mendoza Hotel, Casino & Spa makes a great base for wine touring. The elegant hotel with its restored Spanish colonial facade is a 15-minute drive from the heart of wine country. Guests who prefer to stay in town can sample 100 Argentina vintages in the hotel's Vines Tasting Room and The Vines Wine Bar & Vinoteca, or visit one of the many wine bars. See mendoza.park.hyatt.com.

Information: Visit the Argentina National Institute for Tourism Promotion at argentina.travel. Click on "Gourmet" for wine touring info. Local travel agency Ketek specializes in vineyard tours, horseback riding in the foothills of the Andes and adventure tours. See ketekevt.com.

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