When you think about Mendoza there’s really only one thing that comes to mind: wine.
When you think of Mendoza there’s really only one thing that comes to mind: wine. Though many adventure travelers seek out the region for its wonderful outdoor excursions and activities (e.g. mountaineering, hiking, white water rafting, horse riding, skiing), there’s really one activity most travelers come to Mendoza for and that’s wine tasting and lots of it!
I personally love the region, and I could easily spend months exploring its countless vineyards, various adventure activities and natural outdoor beauty it has to offer. With that being said, here are 21 incredible facts you never knew about Mendoza.
1. Wine Tradition
For at least 450 years, since the mid 16th century, grapes for wine production have been grown in Argentina. It’s safe to say that wine is more than just a fun drink, but a way of life here in Mendoza.
2. Wine Production
More wine is produced in Argentina than in any other country on the continent. In fact, over 70% of Argentina’s wines are grown right here in Mendoza, which makes it the sixth largest producer of wine in the world.
3. Wine Varietals
With so much wine produced in one region, Mendoza also has the pleasure of producing an incredible variety of wine varietals as well. The most popular and well-known wines in the region include Malbec (my personal favorite), Cabernet Sauvignon, Bonarda and Syrah for red wines; Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Torrontes for white wines.
Speaking of my favorite wine, more Malbec is produced in Mendoza than anywhere else in the world (seriously, it’s that good!).
5. High Altitude Wine Regions
Many of Argentina’s vineyards are located in the high altitude of the country’s western region, near the foothills of the Andes Mountains. Ranging from 2,000-4,900 feet (around 610-1,500 meters) above sea level, these are some of the highest altitudes for vineyards in the world. By comparison, the city of Mendoza is situated at 2,500 feet (762 meters) above sea level.
6. High Altitude And Wine
How does the high altitude affect wine? Grapes at this high altitude are exposed to low air temperatures, but receive more sunlight than grapes located at sea level. This increases water stress (grapes demanding more water than what is available), which produces greater tannin results and bud productivity (greater yields) during harvests. In other words, flavorful, full body and delicious wine!
7. Naturally Grown Grapes
One of the great advantages of growing grapes in high altitude is the noticeable absence of insects, fungi, molds and other diseases that commonly affect many grape-growing regions in the world. This means pesticides and herbicides are rarely used, if ever, which allows grapes to grow naturally and without any additional chemicals required during the wine production process.
8. Rain, Rain…Go Away
Mendoza receives less than 10 inches (25.4cm) of rainfall per year. However, the lack of rainfall hasn’t been an issue for growers and grape production; in fact, most water is irrigated from snowmelt of nearby Andes Mountains, so a fresh supply of water is always nearby.
9. Rich Soil
Despite low rainfall, the soil in Mendoza can vary from sandy to clay, but mostly loamy (rich mixture of fertile soil, including organic material), which allows for pronounced grape growth.
10. A Sunny Delight
The region enjoys over 300 days of excellent sunlight and very cool nights. This unique day-night temperature dynamic allows grapes to produce rich flavors in the day and “breathe” in the evenings without losing its acidic quality and taste.
11. Grape Hang Time
Grapes grown in the Mendoza region are recognized to have the longest “hang-time” of any grapes in the world (translation: tastier wine!). The longer grapes are allowed to grow on the vine, the more ripe fruit flavors and smooth tannins are produced which allows for a more overall balanced wine. These tasty flavor compounds are technically known as polyphenols. In fact, Malbecs in Argentina have the highest number of polyphenol counts in the world (yet another reason why Malbecs are awesome!).
12. Wine Production Cost
It’s incredibly cost-effective to grow and produce wine in Argentina. On average, it costs about USD$30,000 for land and labor per acre in Argentina to produce grapes, whereas in Napa Valley it’s nearly $300,000 per acre for the same production costs – that’s ten times as much!
13. Wine Train
In 1882, a railroad from Mendoza to Buenos Aires was completed, effectively supplying the country’s capital city with vital agricultural products and, of course, wines.
14. Devastating Earthquake
In 1861, a severe earthquake devastated the city, killing an estimated 5,000 people. In order to prevent a similar disaster from future seismic shocks, the city was rebuilt with wider avenues and larger plazas to allow future debris to fall without necessarily damaging surrounding structures and buildings.
15. Domestic Wines
It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that Argentina produced wines for international export and consumption. In fact, most of Argentina’s wines until that point were inexpensive wines produced from a variety of grape blends and consumed for domestic use only.
16. Wine Crisis
During the 1980s, the country experienced tremendous hyperinflation (almost 1,000% per year), which caused severe price controls on wine production. This unfortunately meant many growers had to shift from grape production to other means in order to sustain themselves during this difficult period.
17. Wine Regions
There are four distinct grape-growing regions in Argentina: Lujan du Cuyo, Maipu, Mendoza and Uco Valley.
18. Sister Cities
Mendoza has several sister cities throughout the world, including Nashville and Miami-Dade County (USA), São Paulo (Brazil), Monterrey (Mexico), Bergamo (Italy) and Ramat Gan (Israel).
19. Wine Capital
Not only is Mendoza the capital of Mendoza province in Argentina, but it has also been dubbed one of the nine Great Wine Capitals in the world, along with Napa Valley and Porto.
20. Capital City
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Located in the western part of the country at the foothills of Sierra de los Paramillos in the Andes Mountains, the city was founded on March 2, 1561 by Pedro del Castillo, a Spanish emigrant from Chile.
21. Mendoza on the Silver Screen
Seven Years in Tibet (directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud and starring Brad Pitt) was filmed in Argentina, and in and around the city of Mendoza. In fact, dozens of sets were specially constructed in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, including a 220-yard (200 meter) recreation of the Tibetan capital of Lhasa.
22. Population Growth
According to a 2010 government census, the city of Mendoza has a population of nearly 115,000 residents, while the surrounding metropolitan area includes over one million people.