Right across from the port of Montevideo, on the outer-edge of the infamous Port Market, lies Montevideo Wine Experience, a “hole-in-the-wall” style wine-bar. It’s run by two charming young guys who really know their wines, speak great English and are passionate that the rest of us get to know Uruguayan wines as intimately as they do.
I first came across them thanks to guests of mine, who told me about this wonderful little wine-bar they’d discovered in the Port Market. The wine-bar seemed to exert a mysterious force on them. Every day of their stay, after sight-seeing they would spend the afternoon hanging out there, and would
stumble come back, not only full of info about Uruguayan wines, but local politics, culture, etc…
So I had to go and check it out. And I can confirm, with their great wines, great prices and unique wine-based cocktails plus tasty tasty tapas and wonderful service and above all generosity and enthusiasm, a traveller’s time at MWE is well-spent.
The wine-bar opens at midday and closes at 9pm but if you want to stay on and owner Nico and sommelier Liber (pictured above) don’t have anywhere pressing to go, no problem, fee free to hang for as long as you like.
What any wine lover coming to Uruguay needs to know
So over a wine-based cocktail, I asked Liber and Nico for the answers to a few pertinent questions that any wine lover coming to Uruguay NEEDS to know.
The Guru: OK, it’s a really hot day and I’ve just walked into Montevideo Wine Experience. What drink would you choose to serve me?
Liber: It’s got to be a wine cocktail – our caipi made with Sauvignon Blanc, tahiti limes and fresh ginger.
[Gentle readers, I have to admit I was DUBIOUS about the very concept of a wine-based cocktail. But I have to hand it to them, these guys KNOW what works where wine is concerned. I was served an extra-lemony caipirinha made with Sauvignon Blanc and a hint of ginger and it was deliciousssss and soooo refreshing. Just the ticket for a hot summer’s day.]
The Guru: And what Uruguayan wine to drink on a cold day?
Liber: It’s got to be a glass of Tannat, Uruguay’s most famous wine.
The Guru: Which three great Uruguayan wines would you recommend to a visitor to take back home with them?
Liber: On the low-price range, a Sauvignon Blanc by Gimenez Mendez which costs about 250 pesos. It’s not all Tannat here in Uruguay.
For a mid-range wine, I’d recommend a Tannat Viogner by Altos de la Ballena. It’s an extraordinary wine, very complex and produced in the department of Maldonado, six miles from Punta del Este. (Cost 590 pesos)
The very best wine that we stock is the Impetú 2011 produced by the winery Los Nadies. It’s a tiny vineyard dedicated to producing absolutely the highest quality wine. They only produced 600 bottles of Impetú 2011 in total. Right now a bottle here costs 2300 pesos but the price is likely to go up as time passes, as fewer and fewer bottles are available.
The Guru: You specialise in demystifying wines but you’re also getting some pretty famous customers, so I’ve heard.
Liber: We’re popular with customers who are just starting to get into wine because we don’t stand on ceremony. We like to make our guests feel comfortable to ask questions.
And we really like wine and we really want people to get into it. We are really different and that means we complement each other really well.
Nico is really into the experiencing wine from the consumer side. He likes to look at how different wines work well with different foods.
I have the technical background so I can throw the terminology around if I want. But to be honest I think of myself more as an “underground sommelier”. I prefer talking about the people behind the wines, and what the wine makes me feel, rather than blinding with science.
But, sure, you might come in here and find a serious wine expert hanging out at the bar. This year we’ve been visited by Charlie Arturaola. He’s considered to have one of the best palates in the world. Luiz Alberto # wine lover, who runs one of the world’s largest online wine communities, also came here on a recent trip.
The Guru: You’re also pretty well-known yourselves in local wine circles.
Liber: (laughing) Nicolas comes from an old wine family here in Uruguay. His grandfather was a pioneer of the Uruguayan viticulture and owned a well-known vineyard.
With typical Uruguayan modesty, Liber looks embarrassed to admit that in 2015 he placed second among all the professional sommeliers in Uruguay and has represented Uruguay overseas. [link in Spanish]
Prices at Montevideo Wine Experience
Check out their great wines, unique wine-based cocktails plus tasty tasty tapas with exceptional bread and hand-carved cold cuts.
Definitely plan to spend an hour or so -at least- wine tasting. You can make a meal of it by ordering tapas or tablas.
- A glass of wine starts at 120 pesos and can go up to 400-plus pesos
- Tapas from 75 pesos
- “Tablas” are typical Uruguayan plates of cheese and coldcuts
- A generous individual tabla costs 300 pesos
- A large tabla for 2-3 people is 600 pesos.
[At the time of publishing, there were apx 28 pesos to the US dollar]
Buying bottles of wine
MWE keep their carefully-selected bottles in all price ranges competitive with supermarket prices. Plus you will be getting expert advice.
MWE will box your wine for travelling free of charge. They also sell specialist bottlebags.
Where to find Montevideo Wine Experience
Address: Rambla 25 de agosto de 1825, 244, Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo
Opening times: 11.30am till 9pm every day except Mondays.
Go to the Port Market. The entrance is on the outside part of the market, across the street from the entrance to the port. If you can’t find it, ask for El Palenque. MWE is next door.
If you are arriving by cruise-ship or ferry from Buenos Aires, come out of the port, take the pedestrian (zebra) crossing over the street and you are right there! Congratulations. That’s some first port of call.
Check out MWE on Facebook to see if your visit coincides with one of their wine-food-music evenings.
Photos: Courtesy of Doug Young and Montevideo Wine Experience