I tasted through a selection of Uruguayan wines with Wines of Uruguay ambassador Gabriela Zimmer. This organization brings together 22 of Uruguay’s 180 wineries who are focused on export. Most of them are family wineries.
Uruguay has 6400 hectares of vineyards, mainly spread around the perimeter of the country, with a focus on the Atlantic coast. The country has a temperate climate with a maritime influence. There’s very little influence of altitude (the highest point is 300 m), and in terms of soil types, clay/limestone soils predominate with gravelly soils in Maldonado.
There are no official subregions, nor are there any rules on grape varieties. Six of the 19 departments have significant vineyards, and I’ve included these in each note, but they aren’t official appellations. The variety split? Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc dominate the whites, but Albariño is becoming very popular, and Petit Manseng and Viognier have a following. For reds, Tannat is the flagship red grape, with 1700 hectares planted. Marselan and Cabernet Franc also feature.
As you can see, I found plenty to like with these wines.
Brisas Altos de José Ignacio 2018 Maldonado, Uruguay
Brisas is part of large winery Garzón. Bold and rich with nice texture, and ripe peach and apricot fruit. Shows its 14.5% alcohol: there’s real richness here. But despite the size there’s nice freshness, with some stony, spicy detail. Pretty and expressive on the finish. 89/100
Bouza Albariño 2018 Uruguay
This comes from Montevideo (Melilla) and Canelones (Las Violetas). 10% fermented in oak, six months on the lees. Fine and delicate with a slightly salty edge to the pear and apricot fruit. There’s some richness (14.5% alcohol) but also freshness and detail. Supple and expressive with nice weight and balance. 91/100
Carrau Juan Carrau Petit Manseng Gran Reserva 2017 Canelones, Uruguay
14% alcohol. 10 months in oak. Honeyed nose. Powerful and exotic with sweet peach and pear fruit with some melon richness, as well as marmalade and spice. Such depth and intensity here, with a sweet finish. Really distinctive. 90/100
Familia Traversa Noble Alianza 2017 Canelones, Uruguay
50% Tannat, 30% Marselan, 20% Merlot, 13.5% alcohol. Sweetly fruited nose with liqueur-like cherry fruit. Fresh chalky palate with nice bright, ripe, clean berry fruits and some red cherry character. Has nice fruit expression. Supple and quite balanced, with fine tannins. 88/100
Varela Zarranz 1888 Marselan 2018 Canelones, Uruguay
No added sulfites. Fermented in open barrels. Deep coloured, this is ripe and generous with luscious sweet cherry and plum fruit, with a slight saltiness. Has very rich fruit, but also freshness. A seductive style that just manages to stay on the right side of ripeness, and it’s clean and delicious. 91/100
Viña Progreso Cabernet Franc 2018 Canelones, Uruguay
14% alcohol, 6 months in oak. Experimental winery by the winemaker of Pisano, Gabriel Pisano. Seamless and stylish with smooth, ripe cherry and berry fruits. This is really attractive with some freshness. There’s a silkiness to the palate, which finishes with some fine-grained structure. 92/100
Pisano Family RPF Tannat 2015 Canelones, Uruguay
13.5% alcohol. Lovely concentration and balance here with sweet blackberry and cherry fruit. Has some structure with lovely brightness of fruit, as well as a bit of savoury depth. Somewhere between old and new world in style, with ripeness but also freshness and structure. 92/100
Varela Zarranz Open Cellar Tannat 2016 Canelones, Uruguay
13.4% alcohol. 12 months of oak. So fresh and supple with a nice subtle green edge to the vibrant, structured cherry and blackberry fruit. Lovely brightness and structure here: this shows amazing presence, and the tannins are beautifully integrated into the focused black fruits. Serious effort, carrying a tiny bit of oak on the finish. 93/100
Campotinto Tannat Gran Reserva 2017 Colonia, Uruguay
13% alcohol, 12 months in oak. Floral, aromatic nose. Concentrated palate with dense, sweet blackberry and cherry fruit, with nice ripeness. Fine with subtle green hints, a touch of seaweed, some pine and bayleaf, as well as liqueur-like fruit. A really impressive wine. 91/100
Batovi Tannat T1 2016 Cerro Chapeau, Rivera, Uruguay
This is from an inland region. 13% alcohol, 12 months in oak. Tar and gravel on the nose with sweet blackberry fruit. The palate is fresh with bold, ripe black fruits and some undergrowth elements and some gravelly notes on the finish, as well as ash and tar. Stylish wine, with real freshness. 90/100
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