More updates from Chris- now into the 5th day of the trip, but actually only the third in South America- having lost the 2 days in Chile, it's time to head to Argentina and finally a chance to acquire more socks...
Whilst his fear of flying was causing Michael, the young Armagh medic sat next to me on the plane over the Andes to come out in a cold sweat, I couldn’t help but drink in the most astonishing views during one of the shortest but most spectacular flights in the world. On landing in Mendoza we could scarcely contain our relief when the 4 surviving cases to which we had bade farewell in Santiago eased their way round the carousel almost like that’s the way it is supposed to be.
Mendoza also provided the bagless trio of JJ, Raoul and Phil with their first opportunity to engage in some retail therapy and buy some all too necessary necessities before we set off, 90 minutes later than scheduled, into the stunning Uco Valley. (Cue Skids soundtrack). Arriving at the beautiful private hotel currently managed by our new hosts, Estancia Mendoza, we just had time for a quick swim and a glass (or two) of their quite lovely Methode Traditionelle Pinot Noir (a really delicious pink fizz that had us all nodding sagely and muttering approving noises) before settling in for dinner and some serious discussion of the state of the Argentinian market in the UK.
After all the hoo-hah, it was something of a relief to have Sunday morning off and, given that it is a truth universally acknowledged, that the only way to get to know a country is on a bicycle, Lee, Philip and yours truly set forth like intrepid explorers into the depths of the Argentinian countryside. Sadly, intrepid exploration was not necessarily Philip’s priority and when he put the hammer down over the last few kilometres yours truly weakened and set off to chase him down in the style of Sir Bradley of Wiggo. 14 sweaty kilometres later, we returned to a light lunch before being whisked away to the organic vineyards of Domaine Bousquet; or at least that was the plan but it goes without saying that not even a simple taxi journey from A to B was accomplished incident free and so it was that we wound up in the restaurant of Bodega Jean Bousquet, a family member a kilometre or so down the road where, unsurprisingly, they knew nothing of our appointment but took pity on us nonetheless and treated us to three bottles of their own production – politeness prohibits further comment.
Domaine Bousquet itself also seemed to ask more questions than it answered – alcohol levels consistently above 15% caused some degree of concern although personally, I found many of the wines in reasonable balance in spite of this. Their latest natural wine, “Virgin” was particularly interesting - a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that had a really beautiful sense of purity to it.
Thereafter an Asado to top up the beef intake and complete the visit before back to Estancia Mendoza where I failed to live up to my 1980’s reputation as something of a pool hustler – I blame the dodgy table!