Compared to Argentina, Uruguay is a relatively small country. The second smallest in South America and it could fit into Argentina’s land mass nearly 16 times. But we like small. And, unlike Argentina, Uruguay is not short of water. So, what defines the wines?
We will not claim to be experts because in truth, after several years of considering bringing this beautiful country into our portfolio, we have finally chosen just one small, excellent producer.
Uruguay is bordered to the west by the Rio Uruguay, with Argentina on the other bank; by the vast Rio de la Plata estuary to the south; to the east by the Atlantic Ocean and to the north by Brazil. Having shrugged off Spanish and then Portuguese colonial shackles, Uruguay became independent in 1825 and is today considered an exceedingly civilised country; arguably the continent’s greatest bastion of democracy, freedom and social tolerance. She is a multi-ethic nation with a strong Spanish heritage that has been heavily influenced by Italian immigrants. Thus, vines!
The first vinifera vines were planted in the mid-19th Century in an environment uniquely influenced by the Atlantic, with high humidity levels and high rainfall, and cool evenings thanks to cold currents from the south.
Making high quality wines in Uruguay presents a very different set of challenges compared to its neighbours. Recognition for the country’s great potential kicked off in the 1970’s and in the last decade there has been a rapid advance in overall quality, borne out of experience but also the thirst for experimentation and innovation, as expressed by a new breed of young winemakers.
When we think of Uruguay we naturally think of Tannat. Rightly, Uruguayans have made this grape their calling card. With its incredible depth of colour and the potential for amazing structure and longevity and, least not, the fact that it actually ripens here, it was always an icon in the making. The modern challenge, however, has been to tame this bold varietal and tease from it elegance and poise as well as great personality. This is what we are seeing now. And, happily, there is so much more to Uruguay than Tannat!