Wine Touring in Uco Valley

POSTED ON 06/09/2013

Take a stroll through a Tupungato vineyard at sunrise and you may just catch a glimpse of a silvery moon descending as a dazzling golden sun rises to strike the snowcapped volcano’s peak. Accompanying the crunching of gravelly vineyard soil underfoot, the only sounds are birdsong, the occasional bark of a dog or neighing of a horse and the whispering of vine leaves in the breeze. This is the gentle, beating heart of the Uco Valley.

This picturesque, self-contained valley with desert to the south, small hills to the north and dry riverbed country on its eastern border, is no Napa Valley. Rather, it’s an unspoilt fruit and vegetable garden whose secret lies in its tranquil back-to-nature feel along with scant regard for mass tourism. If you’re looking for bijou charm, the T-shirt to go with it and a stay at a Hilton or Sheraton, look elsewhere.

Hello TupungatoHello Tupungato

If on the other hand, you love wine and the outdoor life, you will discover it all here. Uco Valley is a scenery of dramatic landscapes and open skies, charming posadas and estancias, small hotels and restaurants. Any time of the year is a good time to visit, although winters can be cold and summers hot. Autumn is a particularly good time to visit as vines and trees turn to fifty shades of brown, russet and gold.

Take Route 40 across the valley floor and spindly poplar and willow windbreaks that line the road recede into the distance as the low wall of constantly changing shapes, contours and silhouettes known as the Andes becomes your constant travelling companion. Bisected by a web of tributaries of the Tunuyán River, the Uco Valley is 40 kilometres wide and 70 kilometres in length, running from the northern department of Tupungato through Tunuyán to San Carlos in the south. Compared to the more traditional regions of Luján de Cuyo further north and Rivadavia to Mendoza’s East, Uco’s poplar-sheltered vineyards sit at a higher altitude of between 1000 and 1500 metres and so are relatively cool.

Since the discovery in the 1990s of the correlation between altitude and elegance, new wineries have mushroomed in Uco, while traditional producers such as Catena and Famila Zuccardi have invested in the region. For this reason, Uco is becoming increasingly popular as a wine playground for Mendocinos and overseas visitors. Yes, the cool Uco Valley is becoming hot and we’re not talking climate change. Did I mention the wine?

Posada del Jamón, Clos de los Siete, DiamAndes, Leading the processionPosada del Jamón, Clos de los Siete, DiamAndes, Leading the procession

Uco’s wineries are responsible for many of Argentina’s greatest red wines with an impressive array of interpretations of the malbec grape its number one attraction. Almost as far south as you can go inside the valley before taking the road to San Rafael, the Spanish-owned Bodega O.Fournier is an astonishing piece of architecture in El Cepillo with a roof like a helicopter landing pad or professor’s mortar board. It’s worth a visit not just for the wines but the restaurant with its backdrop of vineyards and snow peaks.

The most spectacular of Uco’s wineries is Clos de Los Siete, a five-winery complex conceived by the French über-consultant Michel Rolland back in the mid 1990s. Set in breathtaking scenery like a collection of Incan mausoleums, each of the five makes its own wines and also contributes to the overarching Clos de Los Siete brand.

Further north towards Tupungato, there are a number of wineries whose architecture match the grandeur of their wines. At Salentein, there’s the added bonus of the Killka Art Gallery and cultural centre, which houses collections of contemporary Argentine art and Dutch artists. Finca Sophenia and Catena-owned Rutini are worth a visit for their finely-crafted malbecs, while Andeluna’s exceptional wines are offset by superb food served from its open-plan restaurant kitchen.

Andeluna Cellars, Ilo, Atamisque: tree, cabinsAndeluna Cellars, Ilo, Atamisque: tree, cabins

Despite a wealth of outdoor experiences to be enjoyed in Uco, the tourism people would say that Uco Valley is still under-resourced. Frankly, this is good news for those in search of tranquillity and good wine. With the added bonus of a favourable exchange rate and a thriving black market, the canny traveler can feel rich in pocket as well as in spirit.

Uco is the most unspoilt wine region I know, but not, I suspect, for very long. The Spanish-owned O Fournier, bodega is selling vineyard plots to investors and its owner José Manuel Ortega is planning to build a hotel. The first part of an ambitious new project, Valle de Uco, will open by the end of the year with five luxury tents for ‘glamping’, while Tupungato Winelands and Vines of Mendoza are among a number of ambitious projects in the pipeline.

The dual carriageway out of Luján is being extended from 40 to 70 kilometres which will reduce the time of make getting from Mendoza City to Tunuyán in the heart of the Uco Valley from an hour and a half to 55 minutes. In the next 10 years, Uco Valley tourism will undoubtedly boom. Actually the boom is well under way. For would-be visitors to one of the worlds as yet least spoilt wine regions, there’s no time like the present.


Uco Valley – Where to Stay


Bodega Atamisque, San Jose, Tupungato

In a rural setting of outstanding natural beauty with woods, ponds, lakes and streams, owners Jean Dunonceau and his wife Chantal have created a magical spot where three lodges, each with two stylish and spacious en-suite rooms, blend rusticity and Mendoza style with the personal touch. Hike, play golf, ride a horse, visit the trout farm and eat at the restaurant, El Rincon.

Tupungato DiVino

Pablo Cerrutti and Sergio Viegas, both from Buenos Aires, created Tupungato Divino in 2006 because they decided it was a great place to live. Sitting in five hectares surrounded by wineries and vineyards, there are four spacious cabins, a cosy restaurant with log fire, a wine shop and rooms and a vineyard from which they make 100 litres of wine as a hobby.

Salentein, the posadaSalentein, the posada

Posada Salentein

Dutch-owned Bodega Salentein is the quiet home to Posada Salentein, an exclusive estancia at Los Arboles in Tunuyán with well-appointed 16 double rooms surrounded by vineyards along with its own restaurant and patio for barbecues and wine. On the night I stayed, I was serenaded by 10 Argentinian maidens. Tough life.

Fuente Mayor

In 40 hectares of land, Fuente Mayor Hotel & Resort is a 4-star hotel located on Route 92 in Vista Flores an hour and a half south of Mendoza City. It is large for Uco with 90 rooms and four huts, or cabins, along with restaurant, spa and even its own casino.

Casa Antucura Wine Lodge

Antucura is a charming luxury inn set in its own vineyards near Vista Flores with eight elegant rooms with breathtaking views, restaurant and outdoor pool. It’s an ideal springboard for wine tours by bicycle, rafting, horseriding and a visit to the jade-hued Diamante Lake.



A respite from beef, the family-run Ilo in Tupungato is a remarkable oasis of seafood in the Andean semi-desert of Mendocino beef. Specialities include tuna, sole, black hake, pollock, salmon, and all manner of Pacific and Atlantic shellfish, along with an extensive local wine list.

El Cielo

For the best grill in town, the unpretentious but aptly named El Cielo, meaning heaven, is frequented mainly by the locals. Fresh green salad of mixed leaves, avocado, palm hearts, gherkins is good, but the centerpiece is the gargantuan 500 gram sirloin, grilled according to how many minutes you want it cooked. San Martín , La Consulta, Mendoza – Tel: (02622) 47-0814.

La Posada del Jamón

Miguel Cairo and Mabel Bordoy’s La Posada del Jamón specialises in succulently juicy ribs, meaty sausages, home-cured jamón and fresh, melt-in-the-mouth black pudding. It also has a number of cabins which are simply and comfortably furnished.

Andeluna CellarsAndeluna Cellars

Andeluna, Gualtallary

In Andeluna Cellars, you can watch the chef and staff orchestrate a menu of tortellini, tenderloin beef and bitter chocolate pudding, among other delights, or eat on the terrace with great views of the Cordillera. Book because demand is high.

The Vines of Mendoza

Francis Mallmann's Siete Fuegos barbecues have been held regularly during the 2013 Harvest Season in anticipation of his eponymous restaurant due to open later this year with The Vines Resort & Spa.

In the kitchen, O.Fournier, El Cielo, La Posada del JamónIn the kitchen, O.Fournier, El Cielo, La Posada del Jamón

Urban Restaurant, O.Fournier

Urban by name only, this is Argentina with a Spanish accent. José Manuel Ortega’s wife Nadia, a gifted cook with her own eponymous restaurant in Chacras, oversees the menu, using fresh local ingredients. Ice cream, pastry, bread and pasta are all hand-made. There are also seven rural cottages with private bathrooms.

La Juntada

A recent addition to the Uco restaurant scene at Vista Flores, with traditional food using local products, and in the same ownership as the traditional Almacén de Uco in Manzano Histórico, which is open on Sundays and always full thanks to its home-cooked grilled goat, lamb, beef and empanadas.
Ruta 92, Camino al Manzano Histórico, Vista Flores

Where to shop / wine tours

You don’t really go to Uco Valley to shop, except of course for wine, but if you do,
Bodega Salentein has a useful wine and gift shop.
For wine tour specialists, go to Hontravel, tour operator.
+54 (261) 4202134 /4238316.

Uco Valley - My Perfect Day


Up with the lark, or condor at least, at Tupungato Divino. Drive south to Vista Flores to visit the astonishing neo-Incan complex of Clos de los Siete where ace viticuturalist Carlos Tizio will unlock the secrets of the terrain before tasting a range of wines from the five different bodegas and Clos de los Siete itself. Then visit O.Fournier at El Cepillo for a winery tour and taste of the Spanish-owned winery’s tempranillo blends. If you’re running late, stop for lunch at the delightful restaurant here.

Lunch, Atamisque, then, Tupungato DivinoLunch, Atamisque, then, Tupungato Divino


Head back north to Tunuyán and stop at La Posada del Jamón which specialises in various cuts of pork. Sit on the terrace and try the salty jamón and the pungently piggy ribs, sausages and black pudding, making sure you have a refreshing salad and wash it all down with a glass of one of the many Uco malbecs on offer.


Double back to Tupungato and visit Salentein with its impressive underground circular cellars and taste the delicious range of wines there. That gives you just enough time to take in Atamisque, whose rural setting of outstanding natural beauty with its woods, ponds, lakes and streams is as close to out-of-this-world as you’ll get. Walk, cycle or ride a horse up hill and down dale and visit the trout farm there where David and Francisco will explain the different kinds of trout or catch you one for tomorrow’s lunch in its flower-festooned restaurant, El Rincón.


Evening and overnight

Most of Uco’s wineries with restaurants are only open for lunch, which gives you the opportunity to visit the incomparable Ilo in downtown Tupungato. In this traditional-to-the-point-of-retro family restaurant, there’s an impressive menu of over 100 fish dishes, some of which you may need translating for you. An extensive local wine list even includes Dom Pérignon at 890 pesos, or £75 at the black market rate. Head back to your delightful cabin at Atamisque.

For my Uco Valley wine tourism video, please check out:

Hello Ilo, Goodbye TupungatoHello Ilo, Goodbye Tupungato

Uco Valley - Fact File

Uco Valley
Planted area: 24,000 ha
Main grapes: Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Barbera, Bonarda, Merlot, Tempranillo for reds, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Torrontés for whites.
Average temperature: 14ºC.
Co-ordinates: 33°37′S 69°08′W.
See also: and

Tupungato Divino, scallops at IloTupungato Divino, scallops at Ilo

Uco Valley – How to Get There

Fly from London Heathrow to Mendoza via Buenos Aires or Santiago.
Flight time from London Heathrow to Mendoza: 20 hours.
Tunuyán in the centre of the Uco Valley is 82 kilometres or an hour and a half’s drive from Mendoza City.
For more information, visit:


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