With more than 200 wineries, Uruguay is the new world’s undiscovered wine jewel.
Some vineyards are over a hundred years old run by fourth and fifth generation winemakers; some of the newer ones are owned by foreigners who have fallen in love with Uruguay, like Leslie Fellows from California, one of the owners of all-women-run estate winery Artesana.
It was typical for families, many of whom are descendants of Italians and Spaniards, to grow grapes and make their own wine at home. I have a relative whose family has a tub to tread the grapes at home that dates from several generations ago. At the Almacen de la Capilla in Carmelo you can have a go at treading grapes yourself in February.
Since 2000, wine-making has been professionalised under the tutelage of renowned flying wine-makers coinciding with a new generation of local enologists getting their wine-making credentials in Uruguay and specialising abroad. These young wine-makers are daredevils, making new styles, trying new blends and all importantly getting great results.
For years, but most noticeably in the last decade, wines from Uruguay are winning gold and silver medals in international competitions. And rivalling more well-known Argentina in the process.
Uruguay’s wine regions
Most wine is produced in:
- Montevideo and nearby Canelones
Over half of all Uruguayan wine is produced within a 30-mile (50 km) radius of the capital. Almost all are small family-run concerns that have been around for generations.
Drive time: 10-40 mins from Montevideo
- Carmelo, Colonia in the west of Uruguay
Colonia is a south-western province most well-known for the historic city of Colonia del Sacramento. Carmelo’s wineries are just outside the town of Carmelo and almost all dedicated to boutique-production.
Drive time: 3 hrs from Montevideo; 1 hr from Colonia
- Maldonado to the east
Maldonado with its coastal breezes and cooler temperatures has become the new hot spot for Uruguayan wines. On the way to Maldonado from Montevideo you’ll pass Atlantida, a small wine region sharing the same climatic characteristics.
Drive time: 1.25 hrs from Montevideo; 30 min from Punta del Este
Without leaving the capital To experience Uruguay’s wines, make the Montevideo Wine Experience your first stop once you get into Montevideo. A tiny wine-bar directly opposite the port and located at the infamous Port Market, the staff speak excellent English and love to get you fired up as they are about Uruguay’s wines.
Most of Uruguay’s wine is produced in vineyards just outside of the capital Montevideo and its neighbouring province Canelones. The closest vineyard is just a literally twelve-minute taxi ride drive from the city centre.
Carmelo Carmelo wineries are a wonderful opportunity to get to taste some of Uruguay’s best wines with the owners themselves in a setting that has been called the “Urugayan Tuscany” by the New York Times.
Uruguay versus Napa, California – how do the wine tasting experiences compare?
More reading on Uruguay wines
- The Guru’Guay Guide to Uruguay: Beaches, Ranches & Wine Country is available on Amazon and for your tablet and phone. The guidebook includes over thirty pages on the wine of Uruguay including features on ten very different wineries in three different wine regions as well as a list of 10 best wines for around ten dollars.
- The Guru’Guay Guide to Montevideo includes more best wine lists, best places to shop for wine in Montevideo (mentioning where you can obtain guidance in English), and a list of restaurants for wine-lovers. You can get it on Amazon as well as for your tablet and phone.
Photo: Guru’Guay Map: Click map to go to original
[First published: Nov 24 2013, last update: see above]