Our last day in Mendoza without solidified plans. Yikes. Margaret and I woke up at 8 and ate breakfast in our hostel. We hoped to make a trip to Bodega Catena Zapata in Valle de Uco but we were not exactly sure how we were going to make the trip or how much it was going to cost. Although there were tons of bodegas to choose from throughout Mendoza, we had our sights set on Catena Zapata. Why? Everyone recommended it, there was a nice little blurb and picture about it in my guidebook, and last but not least, every Mendoza-related Google search we did seemed to yield some results about Catena Zapata and its wonder.
Our first mission: determine how to arrive in Valle de Uco. We hailed a taxi to get to the bus station and inquired about routes to Valle de Uco. We quickly learned that we would need to wait at the bus station for over two hours before the first bus of the day left. We definitely did not have two hours to spare on our last day in Mendoza. Fallback plan? Another day in Maipú! “Maybe we can hit up the bodegas that were closed yesterday during the strikes,” we thought and hoped.
Tuvimos suerte with the Maipú idea. Bodega López was open, unlike the previous day when it had been closed due to las huelgas, and offered free tours in both English and Spanish. Regardless, Margaret and I decided to take the Spanish tour (shorter wait + I preferred the Spanish tour to expand my Spanish lexicon). Great success; I learned lots of new Spanish wine words plus more about winemaking. Here are some pictures from the tour! I have them organized in sections based upon which part of the [winemaking] process they relate to.
Step 1: The Harvest
Removing the grapes from the vines. I do not have any pictures of this step, since the viñedos de López are not located in the same place as the Bodega itself.
Step 2: Transport
Moving the grapes from the viñedos to the bodegas. I had the chance to witness and document this step in action.
Grape-carrying Mercedes trucks.
Step 3: Crushing of the Grapes
Grapes just waiting to be crushed (I think).
Trucks emptying the harvest into these large metal “tanks” with some sort of device (see below) to do something very scientific, I’m sure.
Our tour guide was the best! She offered us these Malbec grapes.
Step 4: Fermentation – Mixture of Juice, Skins, and Seeds + Addition of Yeast
This primary fermentation process usually takes about one to two weeks. Yeasts are microorganisms that, in the wine-making process, turn sugar into ethanol (alcohol) and carbon dioxide. We didn’t actually witness the addition of yeast into any pre-wine juice, but our tour guide told us that the specific yeast that each bodega uses in their wine is like a “secret ingredient.” Kind of interesting, huh? The type of microorganism serves as a secret ingredient. That fascinates me.
The skins are left in the grape juice mixture at this time. In fact, red wine receives its color and tannins from the skins of the grapes. Did you know that white wine is made with red grapes? “What? How?” you ask. When making white wine, the skins are removed from the mixture so that the wine does not absorb the flavors and purple tint.
Step 5: Pressing
While we did not witness the pressing, I did see pressing-related paraphernalia on López’s grounds. Here’s a photo!
A wine press turned planter! I thought this was pretty clever.
Step 6: Secondary Fermentation
French oak casks! Once the wine is finished aging in these casks, the wood is recycled to make hardwood floors, furniture, etc. I loved that.
The type of fermentation vessel used affects the outcome of the wine. Many other bodegas we visited used large steel tanks rather than wooden casks.
Step 7: Bottling Preparation + Bottling
This guy has a wonderful job. Hanging out in the lab, testing wine pH, and carrying out a lot of other very important (and likely interesting) wine-related tasks.
Boxes coming down the conveyor belt.Notice that the boxes are upside down. López bottles and ships their wine upside down so that the cork has adequate time to form to the neck of the bottle.
After seeing the bottling process, the tour group headed to la cava para una degustación de vinos. After la degustación, Margaret and I thanked our guide. I also mentioned wanting to visit Catena Zapata, but she told us it was re lejos from Maipú and that she had a better place to recommend to us: Alta Vista in Luján de Cuyo…
Suggestions from a local? There’s nothing I like more. Curious about this Alta Vista place, Margaret and I waited for a taxi and made our way on the day’s second adventure. For the record, Bodega Alta Vista won a spot on my Top 5 Most Beautiful Places I’ve Ever Been list. That said, make sure to check out this post.