Varela Zarranz is one of Uruguay’s oldest wineries, just 50 minutes from the capital. Winners of more than 150 awards, they are famous in Uruguay for their sparkling wines. Check out this historic winery with free transfer from Montevideo when you order lunch—like I did.
A wine-tasting at Varela Zarranz is charming from the moment you drive up to the 150-year old grey stone reception halls set in forty acres of lush green parklands up the driveway lined with 100-year-old olive trees planted by the original owner. You’ll be warmly received by the fourth generation of the family including Belen Varela who takes care of visitors.
The Varela Zarranz family began making wine in 1933 in Canelones. Ten years later, they purchased the Pons estate which had been established as a winery in 1888 by Diego Pons. Pons was a politician by profession who rose to become finance minister and ambassador to Italy. He was also a gourmet and counted Pascual Harriague, who introduced Uruguay flagship’s wine grape, Tannat, as a friend. His winery had become one of the most important by the early twentieth century. The huge oak ageing tanks that you’ll see were imported from France in 1903 and are officially recognised as part of Uruguay’s wine making history. Almost magically, they are still used to age table wines. In his old age, Pons searched for a family who would look after his creation with the same devotion. He sold the winery to the Varela Zarranzs and died (one presumes contentedly) a year later.
The winery was one of the biggest producers of table wine in Uruguay and the family proudly continues with the tradition under the name VUDÚ. However in the 1990s, they began making fine wines under the Varela Zarranz label. Before the end of the decade they made their first export to Europe. In 2005, their Tannat won a grand gold medal in Brussels (2004 was a remarkable vintage). In 2007, they produced their first natural sparkling wines. The María Zarranz Extra Brut label is a firm favourite in Uruguay—winning customers’ choice for five years in a row.
The family produces 22 labels including five sparkling wines. They are proud to have won over 150 medals and awards, the recognition of Masters of Wine such as the UK’s Tim Atkin, and every year many of their wines are rated 92 and above by Descorchados. Nowadays they only sell in Uruguay and Brazil.
- The sparkling wines made in the traditional Champagne Méthode. Varela Zarranz is their driest ‘Extra Brut’.
- Petit Grain Muscat (Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains) – the only winery to produce this wonderfully aromatic white in Uruguay.
What you should know
- One of Uruguay’s oldest wineries Founded in 1888. The table wine is still stored nowadays in gigantic oak foudres brought over from Nancy, France in the early 1900s.
- Three ample tastings to choose from: Classic tasting, Premium tasting and a three-step lunch with five wines (including sparkling). Lunch is typical Uruguayan barbecue or pasta. There’s a vegan option. The charcuterie boards are sourced from excellent local producers. Highly recommended. Cost ranges from 1200 UYU to 2800 UYU per person. I loved it that we were asked if we wanted extras of anything—food and drink! 😍
- Tours start at 11am and 3pm Wednesday to Sundays inclusive.
- Booking is the easiest I’ve experienced in Uruguay 100% online and in fault-less English.
- Round-trip transfers from Montevideo for a small extra cost (500 pesos). Free when you book lunch. Given Uruguay’s no drink-and-drive laws we love this. Bookable at the same time as you reserve.
- Walk-ins are welcome though we recommend reserving to ensure best service.
- Stage your event I attended a wedding here a couple of years ago. The century-old barn transforms into something magical.
How to get to Varela Zarranz
Varela Zarranz is one of the few wineries in Uruguay to offer transportation.
Photos: Viña Varela Zarranz