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Bikes and Wines, Maipú, Mendoza

Wine tasting, Mendoza © Craig FastWhen I decided to do a pedal-powered wine tasting tour in Mendoza I envisioned gentle rides through sun-dappled vineyards with the snow-capped Andes on the horizon. That shouldn’t be too hard – after all, Mendoza is about wine, outdoor sports and the Andes.

So how did Bikes and Wines get it so wrong? Their premise is this: following the map provided, cycle to various wineries and attend pre-arranged winery tours and tastings. Simple. Tourists pay for bike hire and for Bikes and Wines to arrange winery visits and lunch. The fee doesn’t cover the cost of the tours, although each one costs only around 10 to 20 pesos, or lunch. Unfortunately, the tour offered by Bikes and Wines was unorganised and disappointing.

The first disappointment was the shoddily maintained bikes. Granted, some of the bikes had a cool, retro look about them – curved handle bars, bright colours and so on – but that counts for nothing when the brakes are poor and the steering is dodgy. No helmets were provided, although we were given a bottle of water.

Disappointment numbers two and three were the illogical order of the winery visits and the map. The first tour was the furthest away, which would have been perfect if the consequent tours gradually brought us back to the bike depot. Instead, we were meant to cycle back and forth apparently at whim. To make matters worse, the map had no indication of scale and some even had different roads marked on them. Two members of my group almost came to blows over directions until it was revealed that the railway we were meant to cross took a slightly different route on each of their maps.

The fourth disappointment was the cycling. Not once did we cycle through a vineyard. We were on roads all the time with buses and lorries thundering past - unnerving enough to completely undo the effects of any wine swallowed, which was probably a good thing… In fact, we didn’t even get to visit a vineyard as it wasn’t included on any of the winery tours.

In their defence, the staff were very friendly and wineries visited were of a good standard. And despite the quality of the service received, biking around wineries really does make an excellent day out.

My advice? Skip the bike ride and just visit the wineries. Some wineries organise dedicated cycling tours of their vineyards that include a winery tour and tasting. Although pricier, the extra cost is well worth it for the superior experience. Alternatively, do a bike tour in a different area of Mendoza – Maipú, the area Bikes and Wines covers, is very suburban.

Read related features and reviews
Wine tasting in a vintage car, Mendoza
Review: Hostel Lao, Mendoza
Review: Ostinatta, San Telmo, Buenos Aires

Images: Mendoza wine country


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Overland Traveller copyright © Emma Field 2010