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This culminates in a riotously kitsch stage extravaganza at which the harvest queen chosen from

Posted on 03 September 2010

This culminates in a riotously kitsch stage extravaganza at which the harvest queen, chosen from beauties representing each of the outlying districts, including Maipu, Lujan de Cuyo and San Rafael, is crowned. As soon as you step off the plane (probably from Buenos Aires, as Mendoza’s is not an international airport) the vines begin.Last month the annual Fiesta de la Vendimia took place. If you were to cut me, I would gush purply malbec, made with a grape from St-Emilion in south-west France, introduced to Argentina in 1850. Dark red, muscular and more than a match for meat, it’s the grape that characterises Argentinian wine. Who knows which came first, the grape or the steak, but it’s impossible to imagine one without the other.
Argentina is the world’s fifth-largest wine-producing country, and three-quarters of its wine is made in Mendoza There are around 500 wineries in the region. The red wines, often weighing in with a 14 per cent alcohol content, are made with punch-packing grapes that are ripened slowly at the foot of the Andes. Heavy with tannins, they are laced with the scent of cinnamon, violets, liquorice, plums and cherries.

After a weekend in Mendoza, wine-tasting and spitting before lunch, and swallowing during meals, I feel as though I have undergone a complete transfusion. For the past few days, the only exercise I’ve had, between sawing up slabs of steak, has been lifting goblets of mighty malbec. This is the call of the black parrot, a smallish, dark-brown bird found only on Praslin. The Vall?de Mai is open 8am-5.30pm daily, admission €15 (£11).. Souvenir seeds are on sale in the reserve, but they are part of a strictly controlled quota – if you buy one, make sure that it has a label that authenticates its origins.While you are in the park, listen out for a whistling sound. These are available from £1,245 per person, including flights from the UK.

GOING LOCO OVER COCOThere are five varieties of palm tree native to the Seychelles, the most unusual of which is the Coco de Mer. The seeds produced by the female tree are the largest and heaviest in the world, weighing up to 20kg, and are shaped like the female pelvis.The best place to see them is in the Vall?de Mai (00 248 516293), a nature reserve in the heart of Praslin that contains some 8,000 palms, and where the Coco de Mer is protected. Sunsail (0870 777 0313; www.sunsail ) has a selection of boats based on Mah?nd available for charter, enabling sailing enthusiasts to explore the islands at their own pace. Look out for Big Blue Divers (00 248 261106) or Le Diable des Mers Diving Centre (00 248 247104), both of which are on Beau Vallon beach.Some of the best snorkelling can be found around the tiny island of Saint Pierre, just off the north-east coast of Praslin, and off F?cit?a mile or two north-east of La Digue. Full-day trips for up to six people cost €650 (£464); a half-day is €450 (£321). A number of diving centres operate on the islands, either independently or running out of the luxury hotels. Deep-sea fishing is allowed and there are some local sailors who are prepared to negotiate a deal, as well as a number of registered operators.

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