When in Rome….do whatever Romans do. And when in Mendoza, drink wine. Yes, please. Sign me up.
Toby and Chloe, friends we met on the road who have a blog going – Carpe Viam – have been given a contact through the Malbec Tourismo office who can arrange tours of the wineries around Mendoza. So we work out a private tour and schedule it – just exactly what we want – 3 wineries and not quite a full day.
First stop, Septima, (meaning 7th) so named as it’s the 7th winery of this Spanish-based ownership group and because it’s located 700 meters off of Highway 7 south of Mendoza.
We taste 4 wines before being taken on a complete tour of the large-scale winery. Our guide speaks perfect English which we all appreciate greatly. She tells us a little bit about Septima – it has 159 hectares of grapes most of which are planted to Malbec and they are pulling out some other vines to replace them with Malbec because that variety is becoming so popular. We learn about their different lines and how the process of making a wine a sparkling wine works, eseentially it’s fermented twice by adding sugar in the process….etc.
We learn that cork is not a very sustainable resource, and what materials are now being used instead of cork. For many years people thought screw top wines were not necessarily good ones, and thankfully that idea is now changing.
She explains that they buy their barrels new from the USA (for $1000 per barrel) and from France (for $1500 per barrel, although the would may actually come from Romania, Russia, China, or other countries) and that aging wine in each produces a different flavor. And as another way of reducing environmental impact, some wineries are experimenting with ways to age the wine with an oak flavor by placing wood staves or planks in the wine while it ages in a different material container. Barrels at Septima are used no more than 5 years and then are destroyed or sold to other wineries.
We learn about the land here, which is very rocky, making the wine taste “minerally” according to our guide and how the best grape bunches are selected and others are pruned back to affect the production and flavor of the bunches left behind. Even the amount of water they provide the plant during its growing season changes the end result.
We learn about the history of wine making in the Mendoza region and its place in the world wine scene. We visit the production floor where we see the stainless fermentation tanks, then move on to the barrel room and on to the bottling plant and then the shipping area. Septima is enormous and impressive. And the wines that we try are really good.
The views from Septima’s headquarters are stunning, and as we leave I am hypnotized by the rows and rows of grapevines.
Next up, Dolium – which is the areas first subterranean winery.
We, along with 8 other people, are given a lesson in wine tasting by Ricardo the owner. His father built this winery 17 years ago, and they work very hard, they say, to keep the winery as environmentally friendly as possible. The wine is stored and aged underground which doesn’t require energy for cooling as most other wineries do. They water the grapes with recycled water, etc.
We are presented pairs of wines to taste together so that we can learn about the subtle differences between the two and the similarities as well. We are told about the physical affect the properties of the wine can have on your tasting experience – an acidic wine stimulate taste buds on the sides and back of the tongue so you may “feel” the wine there if its more acidic. We are reminded to use a spittoon and not drink all the wine, although this goes against my personal belief. We try a flight of Tempranillo, not a grape we drink much of in the USA. We try a flight of Cabernets and another of Malbecs.
We get to try the Dolium line called Eco-estate which is largely untouched by the vintner and although it isn’t popular with old school vinophiles, it is a more pure form of wine that is growing in popularity with a modern crowd. That wine isn’t oaked, which is another way they say they are helping the environment. We try a late harvest flight as well, which is from grapes left to age on the vines until very late in the season. Grapes produce more sugar in the fruit at the end of the season and that greatly affects the flavor making this a dessert or sipping wine.
Before we know it, it’s time to move on to the last winery for the day, and this tasting will be paired with a 3-course lunch.
Dominio del Plata is a few miles away and set on a large estate that is incredibly beautiful.
We find our way to the estate’s restaurant, Osadia, and find our table. We can choose from 3 main courses, and we all choose the steak, which makes me laugh considering how much grilled meat we have already been eating this week.
In the corner of the restaurant I see an old vine set against a sketching of the same vine that someone has done. And that artwork has in turn been put on the label of one of the wines of Dominio del Plata. It’s beautiful.
After the incredible lunch we go enjoy cafes on the terrace overlooking the vineyard.
What an incredible day with incredible friends….