Yes, you read that right! Uruguay does indeed make wine - quite a bit in fact. Tannat on the other hand, in case you didn't figure it out already, is the grape varietal behind the majority of Uruguay's best red wines. You might have seen the similarities between the word 'tannin' and the name 'Tannat'. No this isn't a coincidence. Tannat is aptly named as it is indeed one of the most tannic red grapes known to man.
That makes it sound quite scary doesn't it? But not to fear, in the warmer climates of the world (like Uruguay) the skins, where the tannins are, will get phenologically ripe. This gives us wines that possess fully ripe tannins which in turn melt in your mouth. If Tannat was planted in a cooler climate the skins wouldn't ripen and when you tried a wine made from unripe Tannat the tannins would be harsh and bitter. Uruguay is the best place for Tannat as it just warm enough for the tannins to ripen up to a pleasant level. I am not suggesting that the 'level' of tannin dissipates in these wines - they are still producing high tannin and fairly full bodied wines - but the tannins are soft and delicate.
We are now lucky enough to have two of the best wineries from Uruguay on our e-shelves: Marichal Winery and Antigua Bodega Stagnari. As many of you probably weren't aware that Uruguay made wine, you would probably assume that the wine scene here has only emerged in the last 10 or so years, right? Well just to add to the list of surprises; Uruguay has been making commercial wine (as in wine for sale not just a few grape vines in the backyard that made wine for the family) for over a century. In fact, Marichal and Stagnari were some of the first setting up in the 1920s and 1930s, respectively.
To answer the question that has been on your mind this whole time; what do they taste like?? Well, in short, they are full bodied, meaty wines that have a lot of depth and concentration to them. If you can think of a really ripe Syrah - one from South Africa or the south of France - and tie that in with a really ripe Cabernet Sauvignon - one from California. That combination is somewhat what you can expect from Tannat. They often start off quite fruit forward with an abundance of blackfruit flavours then as they open up you start to get this spicy, meaty, and smoky note developing. All in all, Uruguayan Tannat is a red-lover's wine and a true 'winter warmer'.
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