Argentina’s most highly rated Malbec wines originate from Mendoza’s high altitude wine regions of Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. These Districts are located in the foothills of the Andes mountains between 2,800 and 5,000 feet elevation, not far from Mendoza.
Beer is made by men, wine by God.
We visited seven wineries in the Lujan de Cuyo area over a two-day period, getting a better perspective on how wine is produced, along with the opportunity to taste the differences of products from one winery to another. Each winery had its unique approach, several were older well-established wineries, while others were newer. Six of the wineries were considered “boutique,” with annual production under 1,000,000 bottles. In all cases, it was evident that it takes a lot of knowledge, skill, patience, money and luck to be successful in the wine industry. Below is an overview and photo galley of the vineyards visited on our wine country tour.
The Bodega Benegas winery is located in Lujan de Cuyo, about 20 minutes from the city of Mendoza. This was one of my favorite tours, since the building is one of the few relics of the old Mendoza, built in 1901 by Agustin Alvarez, Governor of Mendoza at that time. Federico Benegas Lynch bought this property in 1999, taking the next 5 years to restore it to its original design including the adobe walls.
The production area has 80 concrete tanks that go from 2000 to 20,000 lt, with a production capacity of 800,000 lt. There is an underground cave that has a depth of 8 meters surrounded by the original stone walls. Humidity is maintained between 60 and 70% and the temperature slowly varies from 13C in winter to 17C in summer. Twelve hundred (1,200) 225 lt oak barrels can be stored in the facility. Today there are 350 French oak barrels that are renewed every year; the winery uses only French barrels. However, old underground concrete tanks have been restored and are used for the aging of 120,000 bottles that are waiting their optimum moment to be released to the market.
This was our first “wine-tasting” experience, at least for me; and since it was only 10:00 am, I took my time getting used to the idea that this was a good thing to do! Of course, as the day went on I overcame any doubts I might have had! Sitting in one of the tasting rooms off the cave-like corridor in the lower level of the winery, Renzo (who was celebrating his 21st birthday) led us through the tasting of four of the winery’s most popular wines, pointing out the differences in color, aroma, and flavor. It was a good start to the day!
For more information on this historic winery, go to Bodega Benegas.