3 Uruguayan white wines you must not miss

Uruguayan red wines may get all the press but descendents of Spaniards are producing some great whites - albariño, cocó and cabernet blanc.
By Karen A Higgs
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Last updated on April 21, 2014

So you drink white wine and were all bummed because everything you have read about Uruguayan wines is praising the reds?

Good news.

Whether it’s because the experts and enthusiasts alike are seeking out new varieties or simply because because people are tired of sauvignon blanc, albariño –a grape originating in the Galician region of Spain– is starting to attract some notice, and the quality whites produced in Uruguay by the descendents of Spaniards, are getting some well-deserved attention, say wine experts Bodegas del Uruguay.

In January, Edward Deitch, wine expert with Today and winner of the James Beard Award, called Uruguayan wines “the next big thing” and proceeded to focus almost exclusively on Uruguay’s most well-known (until now) variety, tannat.

However this month in a column on albariños –the wine he confesses to being most excited about currently– Deitch ends his review with a Uruguayan albariño.

“Limited amounts of albariño are being grown elsewhere, and one notable wine comes from Uruguay, where most of the vineyards also lie near the Atlantic Ocean,” writes Deitch. “Bodegas Garzón’s 2013 Albariño is an intriguing wine with notes of lime, tropical fruit, green olive and a good deal of minerality on the long finish. At about $17, it’s another example of exciting things coming out of Uruguay.”

Region on the rise

In March, Michael Schachner of The Wine Enthusiast heralded Uruguayan wines, saying “South America’s pint-sized gem has a growing presence in our cellars, at our restaurants and is fast becoming a must-visit vacation spot.”

Recognising that wine has been grown by immigrants from Italy and Spain in Uruguay since the 1870s, Schachner particularly recommended the tannat, and two white varieties, cabernet blanc – and albariño.

The white wines to go for

Schachner highlights two albariños, the Bodega Garzón and another from Bouza, a vineyard just fifteen minutes from downtown Montevideo and which we have written about before:

Bouza 2013 Albariño (430 pesos in Uruguay, 25 USD in the US)

The Bouza family has Galician roots, thus it’s no surprise their Canelones Albariño looks, smells and tastes much like an Albariño from Rías Baixas in Spain. Lees stirring and aging gives this added body and a yeasty, almost vanilla-like character. Drink with fresh cheeses, shellfish or poultry.

Bodega Garzón 2013 Albariño (215 pesos in Uruguay, 17 USD in the USA)

This is a light-bodied, crisp style of Albariño made from young vines planted on ballast-based hills in the up-and-coming Garzón region near Punta del Este. Internationally renowned winemaking consultant Alberto Antonini oversaw the production of this seafood-and-salad-friendly white.

Deitch also refers to Italian Antonini’s hand in the Garzón production with a comment that I think humility-loving Uruguayans will appreciate:

“But I hope the wines don’t become too “internationalized.” There is a slightly rustic honesty to them at this point, a small-production innocence, if you will, that gives them charm and distinction.”

Bouza 2011 Cocó  (990 pesos in Uruguay)

In her Autumn Collection 2013 review, Financial Times wine expert Jancis Robinson also recommends Bouza and Garzón’s albariños and also scores Bouza Cocó 2011, another white very highly. (See her full list of best Uruguayan wines)

As usual, immense thanks to Claudio Angelotti and Viviana del Rio at Bodegas del Uruguay for their original article in Spanish from which much of this information is taken.

Photo courtesty of La Cocina de Fabrisa thanks to Creative Commons licencing.




One Response

  1. Here’s a tip of a pretty unique, delicious red: Alto de la Ballena’s Tannat Viognier – a blend of the quintessential uruguayan red grape with a small percentage of the spicy/rich Viognier white – an idea inspired by the Côte Rotie Syrah-Viognier blending tradition – which rounds the Tannat’s rough edges. Just had the 2011, and it was perfect.

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