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Uruguay

 

Location

Uruguay is located between the 30th and 35th parallel, about the same as Australia, Argentina and South Africa.  As with the other countries, this geographic situation affords the grapes an abundance of sunshine and warmth.  Uruguay is also the only country in South America which produces wines near to the Atlantic Ocean.  The Antarctic winds there bring about cooler coastal temperatures.  This helps to maintain the acidity levels in the fruit.  The resulting wines are bright and fresh!

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Culture

Despite its small size, Uruguay has a strong sense of nationalistic culture.

The contribution of its alternating conquerors and diverse immigrants has resulted in native traditions that integrate this diversity. Uruguay has centuries old remains, fortresses of the colonial era. Its cities have a rich architectural heritage and an impressive number of writers, artists, and musicians.

Family gatherings are very important to the Uruguayos.  Sunday lunch, Christmas, New Year’s, King’s Day, and birthdays are all reasons for families to get together to eat BBQ, drink wine, and share each other’s company.

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Terroir

The region’s calcareous and chalk soils are similar to those of Bordeaux, giving the South American wines their darker colours and heavier feel.  As a result of these influences, the style is sometimes interpreted as mid-way between new world and old world.

 

Winemaking

“Uruguay is a country with a big tradition of wine,” says Juan Andres Marichal, Vice President of Vinos del Uruguay, a trade association of the country’s winemakers.

The country’s wine immigrants started arriving around 1870, primarily from Italy and Spain.  Looking at this history, Juan notes that these people enjoyed “a good culture of wine consumption” and, indeed, many of them planted vines and began crafting their own wines.

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Most of Uruguay’s wine production is from smaller, family-run estates.  That generally translates into higher quality fruit and wineswhich are made with greater care.

 

Tannat

In recent years, about twenty Uruguayan wineries began courting international markets with inventive blends and with a signature red called tannat.  

Tannat grape vines, originally from the southwest of France, were first planted in Uruguay in 1870 by a Basque immigrant. The vines flourished, yielding a suppler taste than their sometimes astringent (due to high tannin levels) European counterparts.  Winemakers talked about developing tannat wines that adapt better to global palates (drinkers abroad may find the wine too rustic or earthy), about crafting unique blends, and about diversifying their portfolios with popular grapes.