Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Mendoza : Art, wine ( Salentien estate) and landscapes ( Valle de Uco)

Pedro took us on a wine tour of 2 wonderfully contrasting vineyards. The first vineyard was a small family run operation. The grapes were hand plucked and then pressed in an ancient press. The wine matures and improves in barrels made of French oak. The vineyard technology had not altered for centuries and they produced a significant number of bottles some of which had the wine aging in them, others from the barrel. The farm house was a lovely 19 c building painted pink and with a lovely garden, the roses were scenting the air. It felt bucolic. Of course we tasted the wine, the reds were interesting but not outstanding and I bought olive oil to salve my conscience.

We drove across the plain and into the Valle de Uco area, with its landscape of vines and poplar trees with the mountains as a back drop. We experienced the ultra-modern Salentien estate, a Dutch industrialist has bought up the estate and invested heavily creating a modern 21 c wine producing operation with an art gallery. We had a gastronomic meal in a stylish dining room with huge open windows looking out to the mountains; I had conger eel risotto and a Sauvignon blanc. The wine factory was beautiful as well, with huge tanks laid out and downstairs even the barrels were tastefully arranged around a central area. Our guide took us into the tasting room which had a stone table and glasses and gave a tutorial on the differences between Pinot noir, merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrrah. The Dutchman is clearly producing very high quality wines and I suspect is marketing them as a high end product in Holland. There were also sculptures in the gardens and an art gallery with a collection of Dutch and Argentinian modern work. I was bowled over by the thought and planning that had gone into this development; it was a thing of beauty as well as a factory. This is niche capitalism creating beautiful working environments. I was reminded of the glass factory in Devonport where workers have a beautiful location.

We had a fabulous drive back going onto uplands that looked like the Brecon Beacons but then turning a corner and finding ourselves at the top of a huge dry Andean valley. We descended the twisting narrow road to a small village called Las Vegas. The village had trees with pink and green early spring leaves. A striking contrast to the dry valley and showing how a small amount of water alters the landscape. We also came close to the mountains and with snow lying on the ridges. I quizzed Pedro on the social provision in Argentina quite good and similar to the NHS in the UK. One can get emergency stuff done easily but one has to wait for non-urgent operations. The schools are not as good as they used to be. The biggest problem is low pay and many people have to take two jobs to make ends meet. We also saw some government sponsored social housing.

Ended the day with more wine on the very fine open air terrace at the hotel. It was a lovely day combining art, wine and landscapes. The contrast between this and the two wineries will stay with me for a long time.

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