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Wine tasting in a vintage car, Mendoza

Vintage car at Familia Zuccardi vineyard © Craig FastMost vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina’s famous wine-producing region, offer wine tasting and winery tours. Mendoza’s climate is sunny and dry for most of the year, with a marked difference between day and night temperatures, creating near-perfect conditions for wine production. Consequently, there are plenty of winery tours to choose from but they can tend to blur into one another in a long, boozy line up of bottles and barrels.

Familia Zuccardi does things a little differently from the other vineyards. Argentina’s largest family run and owned winemakers offers the opportunity to learn about and taste wine from the eccentric comfort and sophistication of a vintage car. As far as I’m concerned, a hot and dry climate might be fantastic for wine, but the thought of wilting my way around a vineyard on foot does not appeal. Add a quirky set of wheels into the mix though, and there’s no keeping me away from those vines!

Wine tasting at Familia Zuccardi vineyard © Craig FastWinery tour
Before setting off to explore the vineyards, I was taken on a brief but informative tour of the winery. The English-speaking guide, Matt, talked me through the various stages of wine production, including sparkling wine, and the ethos behind the company. Familia Zuccardi is a relatively new winemaker, and prides itself on its modern, innovative approach. Alberto J Zuccardi, a civil engineer, started growing vines to prove his irrigation techniques to other families. He was the first winemaker to use an underground water supply instead of meltwater and to flood the vines in spring rather than using the usual sprinkler system. His technique proved successful and the resulting abundance of grapes prompted the winemaking that has brought passion and employment to three generations of the Zuccardi family. Every year Familia Zuccardi grows around 35 experimental grapes in addition to the 30-odd established varieties. It is also branching out into olive oil production.

While Familia Zuccardi lacks a traditional wine cellar (the underground water system makes it impossible) and uses modern winemaking technology, it still places great importance on “the human touch”; all picking, and the sorting of the grapes for the premium lines, is done by hand.

Classic car tour and tasting
Time for the main event. I clambered into a green 1937 Ford Fordoor, complete with its original interior. There are 20 vintage cars to chose from, including a 1929 Ford A Roadster, 1932 Studebaker, 1930 Ford A Cabriolet, 1924 Ford  T and a1909 Star. The most popular is the sporty 1929 Ford A Baquet.

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Overland Traveller copyright © Emma Field 2010