Tannat and Uruguay: An Unlikely Duo

Posted on: October 12th, 2014 by

wines of south america evan goldstein

I was sent a copy of Wines of South America: The Essential Guide by Evan Goldstein. He’s not only a Master Sommelier but also President and Chief Education Officer of Full Circle Wine Solutions. I can vouch for his abilities as an educator after peppering him with questions regarding the state of the South American wine industry, his thoughts on Malbec in Argentina and Carmenere in Chile, and news of a surprising upstart in sparkling wine: Brazil. You can find Goldstein’s thoughts concerning these topics on Grape Collective.

Speaking of surprising, not only are they making wine in Uruguay, but also doing so most notably with an obscure grape best known in Southwest France’s Madiran region: Tannat. I asked Goldstein to explain how this unlikely duo creates notable wines:

JF: When you think about a signature grape for a country, Tannat is probably one of the least likely candidates. Why is Uruguay proving to be such a successful spot for this little-known grape?

EG: It’s a peculiarity that Tannat has found such happiness in Uruguay. But three of the four countries (less Brazil that really doesn’t have one) have signature grapes that, in my opinion, are better as expats than they ever have been in their native homelands. Ironic.

The efforts made to find supremacy with Carmènere in Chile are mirrored by the same effort made to make Uruguayan Tannat so special—again control of yields, best selections/clones, usage of support grapes, climate needs better understood, the role of correct timing of leaf plucking, accepted–and indeed, encouraged–amounts of shriveling/desiccation, and new in-winery practices (including choice use of cold soaking rather than micro-oxygenation).

The confluence here, with a little fairy dust from above I am sure, has made this county such a choice locale for the grape though you do find it as well in Brazil and, to lesser degrees, other spots.

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7 Responses

  1. Sophia Katt says:

    Evan is also the author of two excellent food/wine books “Perfect Pairings” and “Daring Pairings”. The recipes in the second book are all requested from well-known chefs are genius even without the wine.

  2. Many thanks for the attention you bring to Uruguay and its signature varietal Tannat. There are approximately 250 wineries in Uruguay, many that are producing outstanding and award winning wines. We are primarily small producers and wines are typically handcrafted. Uruguay is an extraordinary country with a warm, maritime climate that is often compared to Bordeaux’s. Uruguayan wines are starting to get some traction here in the states and deservedly so. Of note, Tannat has been found to be the healthiest of red wines with 3-4x higher antioxidants levels than other red wines. Hope your readers will put Uruguay on their radar and keep an eye out for these exciting wines.
    Leslie Fellows, Owner
    Artesana Winery

  3. Chelsea Kurnick says:

    From my days at Esquin, I think Unique Wine Company was the first to bring Bodegas Garzon into the US, or at least the Seattle market. They do a really good, well-balanced Tannat and an interesting Albarino.

  4. Dear Jameson:

    Thanks for touting Evan’s book.

    Just fyi, from what I can verify, Tannat is planted to about 15,000 acres worldwide (this excludes China as it has published no vineyard census). France leads the pack at about 7,000, Uruguay at 4,500, Argentina at 1,800, Brazil at 900 (RGdS only), US at 500, South Africa at just over 250 and Chile at 10. There are dribs and drabs elsewhere I’m sure (Switzerland sports 1 acre!), probably in other South American countries.

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