I’m not sure if anyone else finds the idea of me on a bicycle quite as amusing as I do. Unfortunately, “especially nimble” is not how you’d be moved to describe my skills on anything wheeled (uni, bi, possibly even tri), and the same sad clumbsiness has seemingly also applied to winter sports involving slipping and sliding (here, I will kindly ask my highschool friends to cease and desist from making derogatory comments with regards to my ice-skating and skiing misadventures!).
So with my incredible ineptitude in mind and sure that much mayhem was about to befall me, I was already chuckling to myself as I made my way to Maipú, just outside of Mendoza, to begin the much heralded Ruta del Vino (Wine Route) by bike.
My visions for the outcome of the tour included finding myself in one (or at some point, all) of the following situations:
- Lying concussed and staring oddly at the sky, having just flown spectacularly over the handlebars after making contact with a piddly little wayward pebble.
- Arriving back at my bike post-consumption-of-entire-bottle-of-wine and not recognising its front from its back…thus prompting a very uncomfortable ride to the next vineyard.
- Getting my tyres bogged in the pebbly side streets nudged between the main roads, resulting in an emergency rescue requiring the use of heavy-duty technical gear usually reserved for earth moving.
- Finding out that I am in fact extremely talented upon a gearless rent-a-bike, trying lots of fancy tricks and subsequently growing too big for my proverbial boots. Cue my making a rash turn and being abruptly mown down by a wine delivery truck.
Fortunately, none of the above happened. The cycling gods were smiling upon me it seemed…which I do thank them for, as we must remember that all this biking was to take place between copious glugs of good red wine.
I went with the ever popular Mr Hugo’s rental bikes and was given the gift of a new friend to ride with (Jake – you would have been the one to gently refer me to my handlebars if my post-wine confusion had actually resulted in a misunderstanding regarding a bike’s front and back). So we set off and were soon joined by San Diego-ers Clarissa and John.
Four vineyards and one olive oil land of wonder made the cut: El Museo del Vino, Entre Olivos, Tempus Alba, Viña el Cerno and Trapiche. Much was tried and tested, and a fair amount of bull-shitting partaken in about what (other than red wine) we could taste in our glasses.
We did learn too, of course. I’m particularly pleased to note that:
- One quick taste of Arauco olive oil confirmed my suspicion that extra virgin olive oil is, in fact, the juice of the gods.
- 75% proof absinthe can be drunk at 11am to ill-effect of no one.
- I should not ever attempt to ride at the verrrry edge of the road. A quick, sharp skid and neat little stack will certainly follow.
- The “Well yes, there are clear hints of pepper, white chocolate, smoked salmon and Rafa Nadal’s sweat,” type chatter you expect to hear when sampling wine is simply sense memory at work.
Hallelujah in particular for the last one! I had been wondering if I was missing some sort of vital wine gene. But no! Happily, to taste random stuff in our wine, we simply need to drink…After of course having busied ourselves admiring the wine’s colour and legs (much like a Friday night spent admiring the colours and legs on display at any given inner-city bar). When drinking, connections and memories should be let to come to the surface – and voila! – there you have it, that camping trip you suddenly recalled might allow you to legitimately taste eucalyptus, sleeping bag nylon, sunscreen and burned sausages in your glass.
I got a sharp memory of brandy snap when I was in the middle of my Ciento Veinte Años Trapiche commerative tipple. However, upon exclaiming as much, I feel this admission was seen as a little juvenile, almost as if I’d said I tasted gummi bears in my glass.
In any case: a successful day was had by all.
Especially as it did not involve scraping me off the bitumen and mailing me home to my parents in a wine bottle.