I sat in the driver’s seat while Marquesini gave me a crash course (so to speak) in the 2CV’s peculiar functioning, its primitive but ingenious design. The window that snaps open and shut, the notorious horizontal gear-stick, and the air-conditioning system – a flap in the dashboard which, when opened, directs a blast of fresh air straight at your face.
And then we were off, feeling every ridge and pothole of the dusty lanes that wound among the vineyards. It was the start of harvest time and the grape-pickers (mostly Bolivians) were already hard at work. Yet on this Monday morning we shared the roads with nothing more than a few battered country pickups.
The landscape in the departamento of Luján de Cuyo, half an hour out of Mendoza city, had a quiet, bucolic charm. We passed olive groves where the trees were laden with fat green fruit, orchards on the fringes of the vineyards, long avenues of plane trees and luxuriant weeping willow – originally planted to shade the grapes on their journey to the wineries.