Although it might not seem this way, there is more to Mendoza than wine. In fact, early in the year is the time for viticultural action, which will enthuse keen wine-drinkers. However, there are a number of other important reasons to visit Mendoza at this time of year.
1. Festivals, parties, Carnaval
The first weekend in March marks the first festivities, with the Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia (Harvest Festival), whereby selected individuals from each district of the region ride on a float through the streets of the city throwing grapes into the air to the crowds below. The next day celebrations continue with vintage cars and gauchos on horseback. On Saturday night, 20,000 people gather for wine-based activities and celebrations, fireworks and of course dancing. The following week, there is a gay equivalent, named Gay Vendimia, which is usually just as, if not more, raucous.
February-May marks the best time to visit the various bodegas of Mendoza, with every one of the 900 wineries having separate celebrations at the end of their harvests. The best bodegas to visit are Altos Las Hormigas, Clos de Chacras, Bodegas Lopez and Pulenta Estate.
In May, the Masters of Food and Wine Festival is hosted in the city, hosted by the Park Hyatt Mendoza, the city’s best hotel. From May 1-4, a cocktail party starts the festival, and visitors take part in this, along with other activities such as winery visits and meals with visiting celebrity chefs.
2. High Tides
Whitewater rafting, coming from the melting snow from the Andes, make Mendoza a great thrill seekers destination. Rivers reach up to a tasty class IV, and guides take out groups for ½ days, full days or 2 day trips. Other water-based activities include kayaking through the rapids or in more tranquil areas.
3. A Crop of Chefs on the Rise
Francis Mallmann, of Mendoza himself, is a demi-god in Mendoza, but there are a few other chefs who are manking a name for themselves. Rablo del Rio of Siete Cocinas highlights the 7 gastronomic areas of Argentina, illustrating Argentina’s diverse foods, rather than just steak and empanadas. Nadia Haron of Nadia OF cooks up a daily 5-course tasting menu, with dishes ranging from red quinoa to steaks and accompanying wines. Mallmann’s restaurant 1884 is also a must, especially to sit in the stunning courtyard and eat food from his flame grill.
4. An Exploding Art Scene
With all the wine and beautiful scenery there is more than enough inspiration about Mendoza to enthuse artists. In fact, art is booming so much that many people are offering a combination of wine and art tours. Names such as Gonzalo Anton, Mema Rocha (who uses wine as a watercolour) and Sergio Roggerone are becoming increasingly well known.
5. Extreme/outdoor activities
In addition to the whitewater rafting mentioned above, Mendoza’s driest time of the year is now, so guided biking tours that include wine tours are extremely popular. Aconcagua, South America’s highest mountain is located a short way from Mendoza on the border with Chile and an extremely challenging climb. The Maipo volcano is another peak worth trying, as is a few days on horseback around the Mendoza area.