The Best Wineries to Visit in Mendoza

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Last updated Nov 6, 2023

Mendoza has over 1500 wineries divided between three main regions: Maipu, Lujan de Cuyo, and Uco Valley and is the biggest wine-producing region in Argentina. It is known for its deep purple medium-full-bodied Malbec which is perfect to go with Argentinian grilled meats. In Medoza, they also grow Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and many other grape varietals, that are great for blending with Malbec.

The best wineries to visit in Mendoza, in our opinion, are boutique wineries that produce high-quality products. The smaller wineries are more personal and intimate with the possibility of meeting an owner or a winemaker or both.

We have met many winery owners this way that we keep in touch with, share pictures of our dogs and check on each other’s well-being occasionally. That connection and charm are part of the experience we are looking for when we visit a winery.

The list of wineries that we recommend below shows that, except for Zuccardi which we chose more for its influence on the wine industry in Mendoza than anything else.



History of Wine in Argentina

Argentinian wine-making goes back to the 16th century, but it did not make a name for itself in the wine world, until the late 20th century.

Argentina, like Chile, attracted a large number of European immigrants in the late 19th century because it was not impacted by the phylloxera epidemic in Europe.  Immigrants from Spain, Italy, and France brought the vines with them and planted them where they settled.

Until the late 20th century most of the wine in Argentina was produced for domestic use focused on quantity, not quality and they consumed a lot of wine, more than any other country in the world! According to our winery tour guide at Close De Chacros, wine consumption in Argentina dropped drastically in the 1970s with the import of soft drinks from the US, and the wine industry suffered a great deal. This gave Argentina a great opportunity, mainly Mendoza, to reinvent itself.

During this time, neighboring Chile was overhauling its own wine-making industry and making headway with exports to the US and Europe, and Argentina followed. Another little fact that helped Argentina was winemaker Nicolas Catena Zapata, of Bodega Catena Zapata, who was studying in the US and during this time he developed a strong relationship with Robert Mondavi. Upon his return to Argentina, he completely reinvented the winery and the wine he was making to complement the wines he tasted while in California. With his success, other vineries followed and by the end of the 1990s, Argentina was exporting over 3 million gallons to the United States and just as strongly to the UK.

Mendoza is Argentina’s biggest, most successful wine region. It produces nearly two-thirds of the country’s wine. The region is framed by the snowcapped Andes, the vines are planted at 1,400 meters above sea level, some of the highest in the world which makes for very picturesque scenery. It is extremely dry and there is no threat of too much rain, but hailstorms are notorious in Mendoza. Hailstorms can be very localized, and many growers have their vineyards spread out to hedge their bets against losing their vines. Nowadays most vines have netting around them to protect them from hail.



Things to know before visiting wineries in Argentina

Mendoza’s three wine regions are within driving distance from the city itself. Renting a car or hiring a driver is the best way to travel from winery to winery. We never book more than 3 wineries in one day, and if we are having lunch at one of the wineries then only two. Experiencing South American wineries is very different than European wineries. They are much more spacious; food is usually part of the visit and marketing seems to play a bigger role. When we say food, it is not just a tasting snack; these are five-course lunches or dinners with wine pairings and beautiful views all around you.

Reservations

Make a reservation ahead of time. However, this was not an easy task for us. We emailed about a dozen different wineries attempting to make reservations and heard back from less than half of them. You can ask your hotel to help with this since sometimes they have better contacts. 

While in Bariloche, at one of the restaurants we had a bottle of Malbec we liked, and while talking with the manager, she suggested we visit the winery while in Mendoza and try some of their more premium lines. We could not fit another winery tour in our schedule but figured we could stop at the winery for a tasting and buy some bottles to bring home with us. It was an ordeal to get in without a reservation but with a combination of our broken Spanish and “we want a drink” hand gestures, we were able to communicate that we just wanted to stop in for an unscheduled tasting.

My point here is it can be done. But the right and more comfortable way to do it is to make reservations ahead of time.



Size of the wineries

Most of the wineries are a much larger size than what you will see in Europe when visiting boutique small-production wineries. You cannot just drive up to them. They are gated and guarded.

In France and Italy, smaller wineries are a three or four-person operation that includes the owner, the tour guide, the winemaker, and everything in between. South American wineries are much different. They usually have foreign investors and an entire team of people trying to market their wine.

Best Wineries to Visit in Mendoza
Bodega Alandes Guard Dog | Best Wineries to Visit in Mendoza

Location

Sometimes even if you are visiting wineries in the same region they are not clustered together like in some other wine regions, there still may be some driving between the wineries. You may be driving wondering how there could possibly be anything in the area and all of a sudden, you see the sign and gate on the side of the road.

Tours

The tour you have booked is most likely not going to be a private tour and some wineries offer tours in English only on certain days and certain times. There is usually a charge for a tour and if you buy wine after the tour, often they will waive the fee.



Best Wineries to Visit in Maipu

The closest region to Mendoza and home to about only 20 wineries.

Familia Zuccardi Winery

If your first introduction to Argentina is somewhere other than Mendoza, chances are you will see this name everywhere. The wine you are drinking, the olive oil or vinegar you are using on the salad, sponsored silverware, umbrellas, bar stools, their name is everywhere.

We usually do not like large commercialized wineries, but Zuccardi’s success has opened the doors for so many other wineries and small winemakers in Mendoza, plus their location is very convenient and accessible from Mendoza.

The Zuccardi family tries to stay relevant and innovative and has invested in an R&D department at the winery to better understand the terroir and different variables that affect wine quality.

Familia Zuccardi wines include the Zuccardi, Santa Julia and Malamado brands.

For tours and tastings, you can visit their website.

Their wine list is quite extensive. The wines that we have enjoyed are from the category of “Winemakers Wines”:

TITO Zuccardi – a blend of 90% Malbec – 6% Cabernet Sauvignon – 4% Ancellota

EMMA Zuccardi – 100% Bonarda – the first time we ever heard of or tried the Bonarda variety of grape was in Mendoza and EMMA is top of the line. Unfortunately, we have not been able to get it in the states yet.

“…DON’T STRIVE FOR PERFECT WINES, BUT WINES THAT EXPRESS THE PLACE, THE REGION”.

— SEBASTIÁN ZUCCARDI



Bodega Alandes

This winery is different than any other we have been to. The winery’s tasting room is in Maipu, while the vineyards are mainly in the Uco Valley.

Karim Mussi, the winemaker is not one to follow the traditional lines of winemaking, he brings pop culture and art into his winemaking. Some wine labels have quotes from famous musicians, poets, philosophers, and authors. During the tour, you come across a combination of old artifacts and movie posters. We have not come across too many winemakers with a personality like this, or at least willing to put that personality on display. Some of his blends are from different vintages, and they make for some very tasty wines.

Best Wineries to Visit in Mendoza
Bodega Alander | Best Wineries to Visit in Mendoza

Once again, the wine list is extensive, but some that we have tasted and brought back with us and have left a lasting impression on us are:

Paradoux Blend – 20% Merlot – 20% Cabernet Sauvignon – 20% Cabernet Franc – 20% Malbec – 20% Petit Verdot – our favorite so far!

Karim Mussi – El Jardin De Los Caprichos 09 – 100% Malbec – the quote on the back of the label is from Charles Bukowski “I’ve kissed more bottles than people, and honestly, a hangover hurts less than a heartbreak.” – Agree.

Altocedro – 2012 Gran Reserva – 100% Malbec – we have not opened it yet. Waiting for a special occasion, like a Saturday or something else that seems so far in the distance right now.



Best Wineries to Visit in Lujan de Cuyo

Lujan de Cuyo is the home of Malbec and is only a 30-minute drive from the city center.

Clos de Chacras

The first impression as you drive into this boutique winery is ‘Hmm this place has a lot of character’. You quickly come across old tools, artifacts, and an old tower covered in vines. The story of this winery has just as much character.

Best Wineries to Visit in Mendoza
Clos de Chacras Vine-Covered Water Tower | Best Wineries to Visit in Mendoza

The winery was built in 1921 but produced its first vintage as Clos de Chacras in 2004. Originally it was a part of a larger project led by the Gargantini family, and over time it has changed many hands until it was abandoned in the 1970s.

In 1987, the winery was put on auction and the granddaughter of the original winemaker, Bautista Gargantini, buys it back into the family, along with her husband whose great-grandfather worked on improving the irrigation system in Mendoza. It was a match made in heaven for producing high-quality, elegant wines.

Best Wineries to Visit in Mendoza
Cellar at Clos de Chacras | Best Wineries to Visit in Mendoza

Unlike some other wineries in the area, Clos de Chacras has only four different wines in their selection and you get to taste them all during the wine tour with cheese, chocolate, jam, and coffee bean pairings.

Fun Fact: ‘Clos’ in the name of a winery is French for enclosure.  It is typically used in the names of wineries that have a wall around the vineyards to protect against theft.  The word is still used in the names of many wineries even if the walls were removed a long time ago.

Cavas de Crizana – 100% Malbec – it is a fresh everyday wine aged in French and American oak barrels for 6-8 months

Eredita – 100% Cabernet Sauvignon – means ‘Heritage” in Italian. Aged in French oak for 12 months gives it a balanced and lasting finish

Gran Estripe Blend – 65% Malbec – 15% Cabernet Franc – 20% Merlot – aged in new French oak for 18 months gives it an elegant long-lasting taste on the mouth. We brought a bottle back with us of the original 2004 vintage; it is happily getting chilled in the wine fridge while we wait for that special Saturday.

Memoirs Of Ida – has two lines 100% Cabernet Franc from Uco Valley and 100% Malbec from Lujan de Cuyo – aged in French oak for 18 months. This line is inspired by the owner’s mother Ida.



Mendel

One of the most respected winemakers in Argentina, Roberto de la Mota, is a winemaker at Mendel. The grapes come from one of the 3 vineyards they have at different elevations to make some complex and intense wines with an elegant finish.

Other than the wines, and famous winemaker they have Sylvia Puebla an excellent host/tour guide who leaves visitors with a desire to come back for more wine and storytelling.

Mendel has a long list of wines they make, including white and rose wines. One of our favorites was:

Mendel Unus – 65% Malbec – 25% Cabernet Sauvignon – 10% Petit Verdot – well-balanced and mouth-filling wine.

If you have not noticed by now, we prefer the blends.



Best Wineries to Visit in Uco Valley

Uco Valley is not just known for the quality wine that it makes, but also for the scenery you enjoy while in the area.

La Azul

La Azul is a small family-owned winery, the type of place we enjoy the most. During our lunch conversation with the owner, who was also one of our waiters and the chef, he told us he went to school to become a Veterinarian but decided to follow his passion and become a winemaker instead.

Best Wineries to Visit in Mendoza
Wine Tasting at La Azul | Best Wineries to Visit in Mendoza

But maybe more popular than La Azul itself is the Resto de La Azul, where a 5-course lunch is served on an outside patio with plenty of wine to pair with the food. We were stuffed after the empanadas and choripan from the brick oven, but that does not mean we stopped eating! The wine was plentiful.

TIP: If you plan to visit La Azul for the famous lunch, consider hiring a driver to bring you back!

Best Wineries to Visit in Mendoza
View from Lunch at La Azul | Best Wineries to Visit in Mendoza

La Azul sits in the foothills of the Andes and the view is just amazing, we could have stayed there forever. The entire experience was surreal. We highly recommend going to La Azul for lunch. Our favorite wine was:

Azul Reserva – Malbec-Cabernet blend – full-bodied with a long, velvety finish.



Zorzal

Zorzal is the highest elevation winery in Mendoza located at over 1300 meters above sea level. It may be one of the youngest boutique wineries in the region with its first vintage from 2008. You will not find this winery on many other blogs and for that alone, it is worth a visit.

At Zorzal they use concrete eggs for fermenting some of the wines, we have seen clay eggs in Italy before, but concrete ones only in Chile and Argentina so far.

Eggo – Tinto de Tiza – 100% Malbec was the first wine that we tasted from this winery and it was interesting. Sour and fizzy notes on the tongue, it softened over time, but very different than any other Malbec we have tried.

Some other wineries we recommend:

Lagarde Winery

Maal Wines

Bodega Casarena

Casa El Enemigo

Other helpful posts…

Sixteen Days in Argentina
Things to do in Bariloche
Thirteen Days in Chile
One Perfect Day in Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Italian Wine Classification
How Wine is Priced

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