Incredibly one in every three bottles of wine produced in Uruguay is a Tannat.
So what does Uruguay’s flagship wine taste like? Here’s a guide to get you started. The wines were chosen by restauranteurs in Montevideo whose mission is to get their customers hooked on Uruguayan wines 🍷 This is advice worth following.
Wine-making began in Uruguay in the mid-seventeenth century. Vines were brought from Spain and people made their own wine at home. The first person to see wine production as a business opportunity was a Basque immigrant, Pascual Harriague. He planted a number of different varieties in 1870 in search of a varietal that would adapt well to Uruguay’s soil and climate.
The wine that proved most popular with his clients was a Tannat, a vine of French origin. In fact locals went crazy for Tannat. Harriague was awarded a national prize and less than a decade later, Tannat was so ubiquitous it had become THE wine consumed by Uruguayan citizens. Today one in every three bottles of wine produced in Uruguay is a Tannat.
What does tannat look and taste like?
A traditional Tannat is a full-bodied very dark red wine–sometimes so dark it can be deep violet, almost blue, in colour.
It tends to have aromas of very ripe red and black fruits, umami and spices. When aged, chocolate and tobacco appear. In the mouth, it can be astringent and tannic, but when aged, it becomes velvety and almost sweet.
Tannat coats your tongue and always goes well with red meat, cheeses and spicy foods. I think I learned to really appreciate tannat when I realised the importance of eating whilst sipping.
Tannats for all tastes
Several decades ago, before wine-making in Uruguay became more sophisticated, tannats got a reputation for being overly tannic. Today that’s far from the case. Uruguayan tannats are so varied– some are even perfect as an aperitif.
Wine writer W Blake Gray compares Uruguay tannat to Syrah for its variety. “Uruguay and Tannat really is the perfect mix of terroir — windy, humid, oceanic, cool for South America — and grape,” he says. “Uruguayan Tannat, in its purest form, is […] a food lover’s wine, a sommelier’s wine, a wine lover’s wine.”
Tannats to get you started
- Alto de la Ballena Tannat Viognier [Es Mercat: “For anyone who wants a little taste and is ‘afraid’ of the strength of tannat”]
- Antigua Bodega Stagnari Tannat Prima Donna 2013
- Artesana Tannat Merlot Zinfandel Reserva [the 2018 vintage currently available in the US]
- Artesana Tannat Rosé [Guru’Guay: Gorgeous fuchsia-coloured, perfect as an aperitif]
- Bracco Bosca Ombú [Baco: “Very fruity and great as an introduction to Tannat”]
- Cerro Chapeu Batoví [Baco: “Iconic”]
- Los Nadies Equilibrio [Es Mercat: “The 2018 is especially drinkable with the complexity characteristic of Los Nadies. But we recommends any and all vintages!” Note: If you want a tannat to age, go for a Los Nadies]
- Pisano Tannat RPF
For all you wine-loving gardeners out there, don’t miss this interesting article about how to grow plump wine grapes for a deep and complex homemade wine.