Bodega Marichal was one of the first wineries we visited on our recent trip to Uruguay. Winemaker Juan Andrés showed us the wines and discussed the evolution of Tannat in Uruguay in recent years. His Tannat wines show the incredible progress made in softening this grape’s ferocious tannins by harvesting phenolically ripe fruit and then fermenting shorter times in temperature controlled vessels and aging in oak.
Founded in 1938, Bodega Marichal is a family winery with 50 ha of estate vineyards that is today managed by Juan Andrés and Alejandro Marichal. Located in Etchevarría, Canelones, close to the Rio de la Plata (see map), the vineyards receive constant sea breezes and cool evenings that contribute to the freshness of its wines. The soils are calcareous-clay.
Most Tannat wines we know come from the Madiran region of southwest France where Tannat is famous for its robust tannic structure. In Uruguay it has an entirely different, and softer, expression. Its story is not that dissimilar from Argentina’s Malbec, a variety that does better in the New World than the Old World.
In addition to the wines reviewed here, the winery also makes sparkling and dessert wines. These wines are imported to the US by Global Vineyard Importers of Berkeley CA.
Marichal 2015 Sauvignon Blanc 89 Planted on highest part of the vineyard, so it receives the strongest, cool sea breezes, this Loire Valley style Sauvignon Blanc reveals scents of ripe, white summer melon and citrus fruit. The flavors are clean and redolent of grapefruit with almost no perizene. It’s clean, crisp and well made with a mineral accent.
Marichal 2015 Chardonnay ($16) 90 This unwooded Chardonnay is Chablis-like in style with a crisp attack, understated green apple and lime zest fruit and notable minerality. It’s very fresh and balanced and does not go through malo.
Marichal 2014 Chardonnay Reserva 91 This is Marichal’s wooded version of Chardonnay. It’s delicious and well-balanced with bright acidity and showing orchard fruit with citric notes. The wood is beautifully integrated. The wine is a blend of 60% Chardonnay fermented in barrel with malo conversion and 40% fermented in stainless steel with no malo.
Marichal 2015 Blanc de Noir y Chardonnay ($20) 90 This rose colored wine is partially fermented in oak. Light red berries, honey, and flint show on a wine that is more complex than most rosés. It has bright acidity, excellent balance, and a long finish. A blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. 70 percent of the wine is aged 4 months in oak and then blended with the tank portion.
Marichal 2015 Pinot Noir ($20) 89+ Displaying a brilliant carmen red color, this Pinot Noir reveals lovely cherry and plum fruit with underbrush and herbal notes. Fruit forward and soft on the attack, it has pure flavors and good density on the palate. Spends 12 months in barrique, 20% new. This wine has been produced since 2002, but the 2015 is the first to be exported to the US.
Marichal 2013 Pinot Noir/Tannat ($20) 90+ A very attractive 70/30 blend of Pinot Noir and Tannat, it is darker and more intensely flavored than the straight Pinot Noir. Cherry, red berries and pomegranate are complemented by light earth and herbal notes. Very flavorful with good depth and length.
Marichal 2014 Tannat ($16) 90 This is an unwooded Tannat made from a mix of clones. It goes through a 3 day cold soak and a very short maceration. It offers fresh dark cherry and plum with a hint of tobacco leaf. It has soft tannins and rich flavors. Very well made.
Marichal 2013 Tannat Reserva ($20) 91 The Tannat Reserva is a more serious wine than the regular Tannat with darker fruit time in French (40%) and American (60%) oak. The nose shows huckleberry fruit with hints of rosemary and bay leaf. It’s soft on the attack and suave on the palate with layers of dark fruit with tobacco and herbal notes, finishing long and smooth. 70 percent of the wine is aged in barrel for 12 months, 30% new.
Marichal 2013 Grand Reserve Tannat A ($65) 92 Marichal’s top wine comes from a 40 year old, single vineyard. It’s a rich, ripe wine with an intriguing, complex nose of primary fruit, chocolate, rosemary and mint. The palate is silky smooth and dense with excellent depth of flavor—dark cherry, plum, dried fruit, hints of chocolate, chalky tannins, and a prolonged finish. Made from one of the first French Tannat clones planted in Uruguay.
Marichal 2009 Grand Reserve Tannat A 93 With six years of age, the 2009 Grand Reserve reveals more elegance than the current vintage. It has an earthy nose of tobacco, cedar and dried herbs and an incredibly silky, dense, deep palate of perfectly integrated fruit and oak.