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More Tannin, More Cows: Revisiting Uruguayan Tannat

The post More Tannin, More Cows: Revisiting Uruguayan Tannat appeared first on 1 Wine Dude.

Capybara chillin' at Bouza Winery in Uruguay

At this point, 1WD readers are probably sick of me mentioning my previous trip to Uruguay and the obligatory capybara references, but I’m not at all sick of it… And so with a fairly recent online tasting of Uruguayan Tannat reds (led by friend of 1WD and Master Sommelier Peter Granoff), this event recap is the perfect time to mention it all again, right?!??

Uruguay, as we were reminded during said online tasting, remains a fascinating wine region by the numbers. To wit:

  • At almost 3,900 acres, Tannat is still the mostly widely planted variety in Uruguay. It is, of course, not a native to S. America first mentioned back in 1783 in Madiran, France. Tannat Has large seeds and thick skins, so tannin management is pretty much winemaking priority #1, and that tannin management benefits from the relatively gentle growing climate in Uruguay.
  • In Uruguay, Tannat is also known as Harriague, named after the first producer to plant it, Basque immigrant Pascual Harriague (who established a nearly 500-acre vineyard in Salto in the 1860s, and introduced Tannat in 1871).
  • Over half of Uruguay’s grape harvest (especially for Tannat) is still done by hand.
  • Uruguay is a small land of many drinkers: it’s got the highest wine consumption per capita outside of Europe. Of what little of its wines do get to the export market, less than 20% of it makes it to the USA.
  • Chile’s Concha y Toro produces ten times as much wine as all of Uruguay annually.
  • And yes, Uruguay still has more cows than people (about 4 times as many bovines than humans, in fact).

As you will see below, Uruguay’s skills at taming Tannat are still very much at a world-class level, so if you’re sipping tends towards the pair-it-up-with-red-meat end of the spectrum, I am about to make you a very happy camper with these recommendations from our tasting…

kick-ass

2020 Gran Tannat Premium “Montes Toscanini”, Las Piedras-Canelones, $50

Starting things off with an OOPMH! Tangy, mineral, herbal, even minty, and still young, this red has got an incredible depth, and so much freshness that its fierce power and structure are almost kept in check. Almost!

kick-ass

2022 Bouza Tannat, Uruguay, $27

You can read more about Bouza here, but as for this Tannat (sourced from vineyards in Montevideo and Canelones), it’s hand-harvested, and sees time in both French and American oak, and shows Bouza’s signature style: big, powerful, boisterous, but balanced. The black cheery fruit here is soooooo deep. Inky, oaky, spicy, grippy, and excellently made, this has a long finish and has “steakhouse red” written all over it.

crowd pleaser

2023 Castel Pujol “Folklore” Tinto, Uruguay, $23

Sourced from Rivera, by the northern boundary with Brazil, from vines growing on alluvial soils, with reddish sand, this red is fermented with the skins of the first press of Petit Manseng, which also makes up 20% of the blend. Quite lifted, perfumed, and floral (violets, roses), with candied cherry fruit flavor that is buoyant and expressive. The acidity is jumping, and the palate is alive and fresh. A great early-drinking, food-friendly Tannat style.

Overachiever

2020 Viña Progreso “Revolution” Tannat, Uruguay, $18

From the Progresso sub-zone, and vinted by the influential (and very funny) Gabriel Pisano, the vines for this red are grown on calcareous soils. It sports a spicy, meaty and fruity nose, straddling a line between serious and fun-loving. The palate is bold, fresh, and smooth for the variety, with plentiful fresh herbal notes, finishing leathery and assertive.

crowd pleaser

2022 Establecimiento Juanicó Don Pascual “Coastal” Tannat, Uruguay, $16

This producer likes their Tannat’s structure to be accessible, and that style is evident here: since forever, they have been innovators in taming Tannat’s unruly tannins, and that’s still the case from this multi-vineyard sourced red. Tobacco, dried herbs, leathery spices, dark plum and black cherry fruit, with tons of spiciness on the palate, this is an easy choice to pop open with steaks or even burgers.

Cheers!

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