Mendoza province is located in the Center-West area of Argentina, between 31° 59′ and 37° 33′ South latitudes and 63° 39′ and 70° 35” West longitudes. Facing desert geography and extreme temperatures, the work of the people of Mendoza has turned this land into an oasis at the foot of Los Andes Mountains, guarded by the magnificent Aconcagua.
Vines were first introduced by the Spanish conquerors through the labor of the Jesuits, during the years following the foundation of the city. At that time, wine making gained strength as a result of the rapid expansion of vineyards that were benefiting from Mendoza’s soil conditions and climate. During the colonial period, wine was sold in leather wineskin and oxen-drawn carts were used for its transportation. In 1853, Don Miguel Pouget was the first to believe in viticulture and founded a modern winery, proving that wine treated with sulfur did not turn into vinegar. That fact and the arrival of the railroad lastingly changed the economy of Cuyo.
Mendoza is the leading and most traditional Argentinian viticulture region, with 90% of its grape production destined to winemaking. The remaining 10% is sold for domestic consumption of fresh grapes. Grape by-products such as oil are also produced in the province.
The Virgin of Carrodilla is an important element in the viticulture history of Mendoza. According to local stories, on a February afternoon Mr Antonio Solanilla looked up to the sky and saw several menacing clouds coming from the mountains. Mr Solanilla, a religious man swore to bring an image of the Virgin of Carrodilla from Spain and build a chapel in her honor if his vineyards did not suffer damages as a consequence of a hail storm. As nothing went wrong in his estate, Mr Solanilla Antonio fulfilled his promise. His children continued the tradition and in 1820 they built a sanctuary that resisted the 1861 earthquake. Today, the church has become a Historic Monument and viticulture workers have taken up this devotion as their own, appealing to the Virgin in their daily occupations.
Furthermore, the industry has a very unique festivity: Fiesta National de la Vendimia (The Grape Harvest Festival), with the aim of celebrating the harvest season. This major event is held on the first Saturday of March, and encompasses an allegoric show with dances, light and sound effects that make it one of the most important popular celebrations in Argentina and Latin America.
Nowadays, Mendoza concentrates 70% of the vineyards planted in the country, with more than 150,000 hectares and a production of 11,5 millions of hectoliters a year. Throughout its territory, the province is home to 1,200 wineries, spread out in five different regions: the Northern Region, the Upper Mendoza River Region, the Central Valley, the Uco Valley and the Southern Region.
The amazing viticulture heritage of Mendoza can be appreciated through “Los Caminos del Vino” (The Wine Route), a special approach to travelling that follows the best vineyards, wineries and landscapes of the province. Tourists will be delighted by the sight of wonderfully crafted vineyards at the foot of the Andes and the contrast between state-of-the-art technology at modern wineries and craftwork at traditional wineries. It is a unique experience that can be undertaken any time of the year.
More than 80 wineries can be visited by wine lovers and connoisseurs all over the province, with the guidance and services provided by professional winemakers and staff members. Beautiful estates, old houses and “estancias” specially designed for tourism are waiting to be discovered. These places offer excellent services and the possibility to be in contact with nature. Moreover, the most prestigious wineries are increasingly organizing advanced wine tasting courses and seminars targeted to expert audiences.
The Wine Route allows visitors to become acquainted with the diversity of Mendoza’s territory. There are also special programs such as Classical Music Concerts held at wineries during Easter. These kinds of events provide unique opportunities to enjoy the distinctive products and culture of Mendoza.