|Dancing at Vendemia Wine Festival in Mendoza|
As home to more than 400 bodegas (wineries) and with an international airport, Mendoza is a logical place for wine tourists to start. It has the advantages of large well-known wineries such as Catena Zapata, Achaval-Ferrer, Norton, Trapiche and many others. It also has a large number of wine tour companies that can schedule and transport tourists to wineries in the Maipu and Lujan de Cuyo areas near Mendoza, and an hour south to the famous Uco Valley. Plentiful restaurants with excellent food at bargain prices and upscale hotels make Mendoza and the surrounding areas an excellent choice for wine tourists.
Challenges include the long flight in getting to Mendoza, which generally requires two stopovers for most American tourists with close to 20 hours of flying time. Driving can also be challenging, as roads are not well marked and traffic rules are often ignored. Finding the wineries can also be difficult, because signage is sparse in some locations, though better in others. Poverty is still a common sight, and so many wineries have large iron gates with security guards. Tourists generally need to call and book a visit in advance, or use a tour company to help them. Surprisingly, though food and wine prices are low, tasting/tour fees can be as high as Sonoma, ranging from $5 to $15 dollar a person.
Despite these challenges, most wine tourists find they enjoy their time touring Mendoza wineries where employees are well trained and professional. Winery architecture can be impressive, ranging from Spanish, Mayan, modern, and small and modest. The annual Vendemia wine festival lasting 10 days is probably the largest and most extravagant in the world with hundreds of dancers, singers, and fireworks every evening.
In 2010 the National University of Cuyo and the Fondo tourism organization conducted a study and determined the economic impact of wine tourism was $31 million for Mendoza. Currently estimates indicate that more than 1.5 million tourists visit Mendoza wineries each year.