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Experiencing Wine Culture in Argentina

by Ilona Nakshun
Experiencing Wine Culture in Mendoza Argentina | AIFS Study Abroad | AIFS in Buenos Aires, Argentina

For my week break before the semester started, I spent a few days in Mendoza. It took about 14 hours to get there by bus from Buenos Aires. So long, but worth it!

An interesting thing to note is that because Mendoza has a desert like climate, they need to get their water from the Andes mountains. Therefore, almost all of the sidewalks have these little canals that have water running through them. Some of them were dry because the season for it is over. At first, I thought it was funny and a bit dangerous that you can just be walking on the sidewalk and not notice and fall in! However, some of them still had streams of water within them. During my stay there, I learned that they are called Acequias.

The highlight of my trip was the wine tour that I went on. My hostel (Hostel Lagares) provided different tours for visitors and I picked the wine tour in Maipú that included 3 wineries, an olive oil factory, and chocolate tasting (yum!). I wasn’t sure what to expect but here are some things that really stuck with me.

First of all, walking inside you suddenly will feel the overwhelming scent of wine. The most surprising part about wine making to me is that to maintain the giant casks, someone has to go inside and clean it. However, there isn’t a regular door to go enter through — it’s too tiny for a grown adult, about the size of a dog door. The cleaner has special training to be able to fit their body through it. (Yeah, training in the circus as a contortionist). They cannot be inside the cask for more than 30 minutes or else they’ll become intoxicated, as alcohol absorbs through the skin. The way they get inside is by turning their head, then shoulders, and then the rest of the body follows.

Before this experience, whenever I had wine wine, I would simply drink it. But now I know the proper way. You’re supposed to hold it from the bottom of the glass as to not heat the wine with your hands. Then, you stir it for a bit and then smell it. It will smell less like alcohol and more like the hidden notes in the wine. It can smell like so many things such as fruits, wood, honey, flowers, nuts, or even leather! For each person it can be different depending on their experiences in life. After that process, you can finally take a sip. But wait — you’re not done yet! After drinking there should be drops on the side of the wine glass. These drops are called “lagrimas,” or “tears” in English. Wines of higher quality will have these “lagrimas,” but worse quality/cheaper wines may not. As one of our tour guides said, “If your wine isn’t crying, you are.”

Something to keep in mind: Compliment your food with the type of wine you’re drinking. For example, meat goes best with red wine and white wine goes best with sweets. Never drink white wine with tomato sauce because tomato is very acidic!

Now if you come to Argentina, you can drink Malbec with all this knowledge in mind and feel like such a wine connoisseur!

This post was contributed by Ilona Nakshun, who is spending her spring semester studying abroad with AIFS in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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