Wine tasting, empanadas and olive trees – a cycling tour of Mendoza Vineyards, Argentina

A perfect self guided day tour of Mendoza wineries in Maipu area

Hiring a bicycle and cycling around vineyards in Mendoza, the premier wine region of Argentina seemed like a perfect way to pass an afternoon.

Tempus Alba vineyard driveway
Tempus Alba vineyard driveway

Guided bus tours of the vineyards were staggeringly high prices, from US$100 upwards, so we were pleased to discover Maipu Bikes, who offer good quality mountain bikes and a recommended itinerary complete with map.

Hiring bikes at Maipu Bikes

As usual in Argentina there was a discount if paying in cash. The bike shop is open from 10am to 6pm, and it cost 450 pesos in cash or 500 by card for a day bicycle hire. We were late arriving, because as usual a relaxing breakfast in the garden of our guesthouse was too nice to be rushed, and so started our bike tour at 1pm.

The bike shop closes at 6pm, and we impressed to see they offer a happy hour from 5pm with free wine – a great way to get everyone to return their bikes on time!

Itinerary for Maipu vineyard and wineries cycle tour

The bike hire shop recommended dividing the tour into the Maipu wineries to the south of the shop and those to the north. As we only had half a day, we chose the south area as it has quieter roads and there was no need to book in advance. Some vineyards ask for reservations and the most popular ones book up a day or so before.

In the end, we covered three wineries – that was enough for me! We started at Vina del Cerno, then cycled on to Mevi vineyard where we enjoyed an empanada on the terrace, then finished at Tempus Alba.

It’s about 30 minutes cycle along a main road, with a cycle path running most of the way, before turning off onto a quieter lane. The three vineyards are then located close together.

If you’re not a cyclist and just wanted to visit these three vineyards, it’s also possible to take the bus to the Moreno turnoff and walk along the side road.

Vina del Cerno winery, Maipu

This organic family run vineyard offers various priced wine tastings and tours. A tour costs 180 pesos, a tasting of two glasses is 200 or of three glasses 250. You can also buy wine by the glass.

We chose the two wine degustation tasting menu and were then given several wines to choose from. There was the ‘young varietal’ or summer wines which aren’t aged in the barrels. Then there was a selection of older premium wines, aged up to 24 months in oak barrels. Then finally there was a choice of white wines and champagne.

After choosing, you can take a seat on the terrace outside or stay inside and admire the decor as we did. I liked the chess board made of corks in particular!

My glass of red, an aged cabernet sauvignon and a glass of dry champagne, was served quickly and I was surprised that they were normal sized glasses. I wouldn’t expect that from a ‘tasting’ menu!

The champagne was excellent, dry and just a slight bubble. The red was okay but probably to heavy to drink in the midday heat. I don’t know anything about wine so I’m not going to go about about blackberry or smoky notes, but they might have been present!

Mevi vineyard, Maipu

Next stop on our bike tour of the Maipu wineries was Mevi vineyard, a kilometre along the road.

We were planning to have lunch here, as the bike hire man had suggested they had a menu more orientated towards cyclists. Unfortunately it was also orientated towards meat eaters, so we had a cheese and spinach empanada each and decided to forego any more wine until our next stop.

The view from the terrace at Mevi was superb. The Andes were clearly visible in the distance, hanging in the haze above a backdrop of vines. There was even snow on the highest peaks.

Our empanadas were the best we’ve tasted so far on this trip. Similar to a Cornish pasty, as we’d call them in England, these little cheesy treats are ubiquitous across Argentina and they even do vegetarian versions. In Paraguay we discovered that they deep fry their empanadas, but they’re usually oven baked in Argentina, with a delicious light pastry.

Have a look at some of my posts about travelling in Paraguay here – from Itaipu dam in Cuidad Del Este to drinking terere at the beach in Asuncion.

Tempus Alba vineyard, Maipu

This pretty vineyard with rooftop dining terrace, has been in operation since 1942 and focuses on red wines.

Tempus Alba offers a short self-guided free tour. There’s four information boards detailing how they make their wines, with a view of the cellar, the ‘conservation wing’ with its stainless steel temperature controlled tanks and the vineyard.

Apparently, despite making 4 million litres of wine a year, they only use 22% of the grapes they produce for their wines and the rest are sold to other wineries.

We paid 150 pesos here to sample three wines. They are smaller glasses than served at Vina del Cerno (probably a good thing!) and we chose to try a Tempranillo, a Syrah and a Rose. Unfortunately they’d closed the kitchen by the time we arrived at 4pm, but they had some appealing vegetarian options on the menu from a quinoa salad to a veggie cannelloni.

Entre Olivios

It’s not just vineyards in this area – olive trees abound too. We saw plenty of olive groves and olive trees during our visit to Mendoza.

Entre Olivios is halfway along the main road from the bike shop, on the way to the vineyards. We popped in on the way back for Sarah to buy some tapenade. They also offer a tasting session for 180 pesos. You can try a variety of olive oils, tapenades and jams with bread, as well as some liqueurs.

I was intrigued by the dulce de leche liquor, but somehow managed to resist. If you’ve never travelled in Argentina, you may not know the delights of dulce de leche.

This sweet caramel flavoured condensed milk is the nation’s favourite. It’s good to put on bread at breakfast, have with crepes or ice-cream, it’s in various pastries (known as facturas) and apparently it’s also a liquor!

Happy hour at Maipu Bikes

Back at the bike shop we were greeted warmly, our bikes whisked away and a glass of red thrust into our eager hands. A small seating area on the patio was full of excited backpackers swapping stories. The bottles were left on the table to top up your glass as you liked and when we finally left soon after 6pm the wine was still flowing.

Local bus to Maipu Bikes from Mendoza

Mendoza city transport requires a Redbus card, similar to the SUBE card in Buenos Aires. Have a look at my post on a three day backpacker itinerary in Buenos Aires here, which also covers how to buy a SUBE card.

We went to a city centre kiosk (kiosks are like 7-11s), advertising the Redbus card and paid 60 pesos for the card (about a dollar). We then charged it with 100 pesos – each journey will cost between 18 and 22 pesos.

Maipu Bikes are located in Coquimbito, just above Maipu. It’s about a 45 minute bus journey from Calle Rioja in the city centre. We followed instructions on the Maipu Bikes website (here) to catch the 811 service to their shop.

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