Working with wine in Argentina: Interview with a wine tour guide

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Interview: Behind the scenes of an Argentinean vineyard

Before joining our operations team, Sofia had the amazing opportunity to work in the world-renowned wine region of Mendoza in Argentina as a wine tour guide. She had a blast working for with the Family Zuccardi, of the Zuccardi, Santa Julia, and Fuzion wine labels.  Here Sofia shares her insights into life working on a vineyard with us.

Q: While you were an intern at Familia Zuccardi, what were your responsibilities?  

A: I was in the wine production and wine tasting part of the bodega (wine cellar) as that’s where the tourists come. I led wine tours for English-speaking groups, which included welcoming them to the cava (cellar), and telling them about the different wines and the history of the bodega and the Zuccardi family.

The second part of the tour involved a walk-through of the wine-making areas to show people the entire process, from the grape-picking, transportation of the grapes to the plant, the different fermentation tank rooms, to the aging room where the barricas (tanks) filled with wine are stored.

Lastly, at the wine tasting we offered three of the “varietales” wines: a white, usually Torrontes or Chardonnay; a red, usually Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon; and a late harvest, usually Chenin Dulce, all part of the Santa Julia label.

The beautiful cava (cellar) at Familia Zuccardi

The beautiful cava (cellar) at Familia Zuccardi.

Q: What did you enjoy most about your work?

A: Hands-down the work team at Zuccardi was the most enjoyable aspectEveryone was exceptionally welcoming from the beginning. We were even treated to a magnificent lunch at their 5-star restaurant, Casa del Visitante, hosted by Julia Zuccardi on our first day.

Before we could start to perform our duties we attended a training program with oenologists and sommeliers working in our area, and they were all very knowledgeable and thoroughly enjoyed their work, which made it easy for me to follow their steps and I felt challenged to do my best! It was very pleasant to walk around the different areas of the bodega and always find a friendly smile.

Explaining wines at Bodega Familia Zuccardi.Explaining wines at Bodega Familia Zuccardi.

Q: What can travelers expect on a Mendoza wine tour?

A: There are different ways to visit the many bodegas in the Mendoza region. For the adventurous spirits there are bike rentals available all over including the Maipu and Lujan areas, where you can follow a certain route and choose the bodegas to visit, such as the more traditional ones like Zuccardi, Rutini, Catena Zapata, Navarro Correas, Luigi Bosca, Lagarde, or boutique bodegas such as Vistandes.

There are also private tours for all budgets depending on the specific bodegas you’d like to visit and how many. These tours include transportation, wine tours and tastings at the wineries of your choice. There are also bodegas that offer lunch as an option. For example, Zuccardi has their restaurant, Casa del Visitante, offering a traditional menu as well as a delicious gourmet 5-course meal.

Q: What did you like most about Mendoza?

A: The wine culture of the region and how warm and welcoming everyone is everywhere you go. Their detail-oriented tours and fine cuisine make for a wonderful place to visit, and there’s a wide range of activities whether you’re a wine connoisseur (or amateur!) or an adventure junkie.

Sofia was quite impressed with Argentine hospitality.Sofia was quite impressed with Argentine hospitality.

Q: Your favorite wine?

A: I was fortunate to be able to taste all of the wines from the 3 labels at the bodega as part of the day-to-day at Zuccardi, whether it was at work during sparkling time as a welcome treat for the tourists, the wine tastings, or even the wines brought to us at Casa Cinco, the house shared by international interns at Zuccardi.

My personal favorite has to be the iconic wine of Zuccardi, the famous Zuccardi Zeta, a blend of Tempranillo (34%) and Malbec (66%), aged 24 months in a first use French oak barrica, full bodied and with rich taste, exquisite taste; a perfect pairing for an Argentine parrilla (barbeque).

Q: What else did you get up to while you were there?

A: There are plenty of other great activities to do while in Mendoza such as whitewater rafting in the Mendoza river, paragliding from the Andes, high mountain tours which include visiting the base of Aconcagua, and my personal favorite, sunset horseback riding lead by a gaucho which ends with an authentic Argentine parrilla (barbeque) – served, of course, with great wine.

A dance showSofia says about Vendimia, “Talk about a show! It was pretty spectacular and quite inexpensive – a must do if you’re in town for it!”

Additional Resources

Websites:
Mendoza visitor information: http://welcometomendoza.com
Mendoza Bike Tours: http://www.mendozawinebiketour.com

Articles:
36 Hours in Mendoza: http://travel.nytimes.com/2012/04/08/travel/36-hours-in-mendoza-argentina.html
Wine-tasting in Mendoza: http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/2011/01/wine-tasting-mendoza-argentina
Wine tours in Mendoza: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/foodandwineholidays/6777952/Argentina-wine-tours-in-Mendoza-and-Salta.html
Efforts rewarded in Argentinian adventure: http://www.timescolonist.com/life/travel/efforts-rewarded-in-argentinian-adventure-1.92235

Videos:
Bodega Familia Zuccardi:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrVqnKtgpEg
Argentina Wine Tours – Mendoza Land of Elements: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ohc5yiq-4E

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About Author

Anabel has been exploring the length and width of South America since 2010. Ditching preconceptions, settling into the local pace, and embracing the unexpected are the tenets of her philosophy of travel - and life.