Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mendoza's No. 10!

The November issue of National Geographic Traveler - for whom I am currently writing a new guidebook to Argentina that will come out next year - has just published its annual "destination scorecard" of historic places around the world. This index rates 109 places according to half a dozen criteria: 1) environmental and ecological quality; 2) social and cultural integrity; 3) condition of historic buildings and archaeological sites; 4) aesthetic appeal; 5) quality of tourism management; and 6) outlook for the future.

By these standards, Traveler places Argentina's "Mendoza Wine Estancias" as the tenth-best-rated of 109 destinations, "in excellent shape, relatively unspoiled, and likely to remain so." It describes the city of Mendoza, whose Plaza España is pictured here, as "a pleasant walking city with lots of cultural activities and nice parks," and notes an "amazing number of first-rate restaurants in both the city and countryside."

The wineries, meanwhile, come in for similar praise: "The green of the wine estates in the middle of the arid desert is moving. The people are very welcoming, excellent tourist information is available, accommodations range from boutique hotels to simple posadas." At the same time, the "View of the Andes is a great background to the wineries," as pictured here from Bodega Ruca Malén. For a more detailed description of an individual winery, see my Moon Handbooks account of Bodegas Salentein.

It's odd, though, that Traveler would describe these institutions as "wine estancias," when in fact they are wineries and vineyards. Widespread throughout Argentina, the estancia is normally a livestock ranch, for beef cattle in the Pampas heartland, and sheep for wool and meat in the Patagonian south. Aside from this odd use of the terminology, though, I concur with Traveler's opinion of Mendoza.

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