We were delighted to finally have the opportunity to taste a selection of fine wines from Uruguay at a tasting held recently at the Sofitel Hotel in Washington, DC. The tasting was sponsored by Wines of Uruguay (WoU), an association of 23 member wineries and included a seminar on Tannat and the wines of Uruguay by Master Sommelier, Gilles de Chambure.
We tasted wines and chatted with many of the 18 producers who were pouring their wines. Giles de Chambure, who is very knowledgeable about Uruguayan wines, was most helpful in personally introducing us to some of the key producers and their wines and providing us with useful background information on the wines.
Uruguay is a relatively small producer with about 22 thousand acres of vines currently under cultivation. It has some 3 thousand growers and 200 wineries and is noteworthy for its sustainable vineyard management practices.
Tannat is the vinous star of Uruguay with about 7200 acres planted. It is a variety that can produce fiercely tannic wines in its home in Madirán, France. It was a Frenchman, Pascual Harriague, who first brought the grape to Uruguay in 1870, where it produces more consumer friendly wines. Winemakers in Uruguay have learned to produce age worthy wines of depth, yet they’re balanced in terms of alcohol and acidity. They also produce other Bordeaux and Rhone varieties and regularly blend Tannat with them. Sauvignon Blanc stands out among the whites.
Most Tannats tasted at the event were well made and approachable, and several were elegant and age worthy. While we didn’t get around to tasting all of them, we were impressed with the Tannats and blends of the following producers: Antigua Bodega Stagnari, especially the 2009 Osiris, Narbona’s 2011 Luz de Luna, Artesana, Bodegas Carrau, especially the 2012 Tannat Reserve and 2009 Amat, Garzon, Pisano, Pizzorno, H Stagnari and Viñedo de los Vientos Angel’s cuvée, a ripasso of Tannat, and Marichal’s 2012 Tannat Reserve, which is similar in quality to the fine wines we reported on in an earlier article on theTannats of Marichal.
Looking ahead, we are tentatively planning to prepare an in-depth report on the wines of Uruguay in 2016 which will provide the trade and consumers alike with useful analysis and information on the vineyards, growers, producers and fine wines of Uruguay.