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How to spend Christmas in Mendoza
The main Christmas celebration in Argentina is on the night of the 24th. Although business is as usual during the day (with manic last-minute shopping continuing till early evening), the latter part of the evening is usually reserved for family. From about 8pm, families gather for an evening of food, wine and nervous energy as the children await the arrival of Father Christmas (aka. Papa Noel) at midnight.
As the clock strikes midnight, children open presents in excited fervour and adults light fireworks and bangers in every direction. After about an hour of celebration, the children retire to bed and the adults continue to celebrate with friends. By 1am, the Christmas parties have started and Mendoza’s bars and clubs become packed with groups of friends who will dance until late in the morning of the 25th. The 25th is almost always a recovery day for locals with lowkey get-togethers, usually around a swimming pool and BBQ.
If you don’t have a local family to spend Christmas with, then the best way to celebrate Christmas Eve is during the day. In the evening, most restaurants are closed (with the exception of hotel restaurants) so indulge in an elaborate wine-paired lunch at one of the many wineries in Mendoza instead. Whether in the Uco Valley, Maipu or Lujan de Cuyo, there are some excellent options for long and indulgent wineries lunches. Dining al fresco with wonderful wines and fabulous vineyard views is a delightful way to ruminate over the year gone-by.
During the week of Christmas, a favourite local pastime in Mendoza is escaping to the mountains where the snow lined Andes keep the temperatures a bit cooler. Head up to Aconcagua Park for a trek around base camp or spend the afternoon windsurfing or dipping your toes in the glacial blue lake of Potrerillos.
Christmas food and wine pairing
If you are celebrating the festive season during the day, the warm summer weather means that this is the time to taste Mendoza’s growing selection of white and rosé wines. While Torrontés is the most typical Argentine white wine, you’ll find interesting Chardonnay, Semillon and complex white blends.
However if there were one light wine category that has boomed in 2018, it is rosé. Whether using Malbec, Syrah or Garnacha as the base, light, floral and spicy rosé is all the rage in Mendoza at the moment and lends itself perfectly to summertime food pairings. Ideal to sip over lunch with seasonal salads, juicy empanadas and even with fruit for dessert.
At any time of year, the quintessential wine and food pairing in Mendoza is Malbec and steak - and Christmas is no exception. On Christmas or New Year’s Eve, fire up the BBQ and indulge in delicious grilled steak with rich and smooth Malbec. It’s a classic for a reason.
Aside from the traditional asado, Christmas celebrations in Mendoza tend to involve lots of finger food with empanadas, vitel toné, stuffed meats and savoury pancake towers being staples on the Christmas table. A versatile wine is essential in this case and the local Bonarda grape is a great choice: juicy, fruity and easy to drink. It’s an ideal tipple for finger food and best served lightly chilled.
Everyone’s got a sweet tooth around Christmas time and ’tis the season for nougat and pan dulce. Every grandmother has their own recipe which might change your wine pairing but a sparkling wine never goes amiss at the end of the night. Nor does a chilled, late-harvest white wine which offers a refreshing, sweet note to finish the year.
By Amanda Barnes