Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Mendoza Wine and Flying

I could get used to luxury wine touring the way they do it in Mendoza. On Mendoza day 3, for a decent fee, we had a minibus limited to 8 visitors, along with a driver and guide (trained enologist), and private tasting rooms in all 4 wineries that we visited, where we got to taste better wines that what are normally offered to passing tourists, as well as a 4 course lunch with matching wines.

9am Tasting

The first winery we visited was the Bodega Mendel, a modern winery that left most of us a little flat - not sure if it was the 9am start of the fact that the winemaker himself preferred to drink wines young, and the wined we tasted really lacked depth and character; especially for the prices that were being asked.

The next vineyard, Bodega Sottano, was also very modern, and our host highlighted the advantages of the steel vats over the more traditional French style concrete ones. This vineyard was architect designed and pretty fancy; and as well as an excellent if traditional Malbec, provided a tasty Cabernet Sauvignon that I most certainly would have purchased if I wasn't lumbered with a backpack.

Modern Vats Good - Concrete Bad

At the penultimate vineyard, the Spanish operated Bodega Belasco de Baquedano, apart from the excellent wines, there was an aroma room, complete with tubes containing every possible odour that could be present in a wine - including bad wine (corked, mouldy ...). At the end were 6 test tubes (pun intended, sadly) where visitors could guess the odours stored in the unlabelled tubes.
Odour Room

As well here we were provided with the 4 course lunch with matching wines, which created quite the wine glass forest:

The final Bodega, Bodega Benegas, was my favourite. It is based in a 120 year old vineyard that a previous bankrupted (in the 70s) winemaker, Federico Benegas Lynch, had bought and lovingly restored, maintaining the original cellars and building and keeping much of the original equipment as museum pieces. For a change we didn't try the Malbec; instead tasting a very dry Chardonnay and an unusual pure Franc, as well as a Cabernet Franc.

Old School Concrete Vats

Para Man

What better way to follow up a day in the vineyards than by learning to fly ? Paragliding is something I've always wanted to do and finally I got my chance on my final day in Mendoza. Ultimately it was far easier and less scary than I expected, for whatever reason the only reason the only time I was nervous was on the road up; possibly due to the driver, in true Argentinian style, facing me talking animatedly while opening a pack of cigarettes and navigating the 4WD by what must just have been experience.

The Road up seen from above

As far as the actual gliding was concerned, the instructions were ridiculously simple. 'Just start running and don't stop until I say'. 'What about landing ?' I ask. 'Don't worry, I'll tell you when we get there'. So I'm running off a cliff, feel a great whoosh, and I am them suspended, running road-runner like over (very) thin air ! Once up, the views (up, down, left, right) and the sensation of freedom and flying were just sensational, and this won't be the last time I do this.

Looking Down

Looking Up

Landing, when it came, basically involved standing up as I hit the ground, two steps forward on my safety boots (sandals) and it was all over.


Letizia said...

WOW! Far scarier than bungy-jumping :-) Love the picture of the green bottles.

Duncan said...

Thanks Letizia ! Really not scary at all - I think you should give it a go in lieu of bungy :)