Wine Time: The Atlantic-edged South American country Uruguay has adopted the grape variety tannat as its own.

Jane Clare of One Foot in the Grapes enjoys a deep-dive into tannat and Uruguay as part of a special online celebration.

Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 3:46 pm
The atmospheric vineyards at one of the top wine producers in Uruguay, Bodega Garzón. Photo: Bodega Garzón
The atmospheric vineyards at one of the top wine producers in Uruguay, Bodega Garzón. Photo: Bodega Garzón

I discovered more about the relationship between Uruguay and the black grape tannat when I was invited to take part in #TannatDay and #UruguayWineWeek.

If you find those hashtags on social media you’ll be able to do a bit of catching up.

Uruguay may not be the top of your list when you think of wine-producing countres.

The “green harvest” at Pizzorno Wine vineyards. Picture: pizzornowine

But in fact it is on the same latitude as New World wine producers such as Argentina, Chile, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

We should big it up for Uruguay and its wines, especially tannat, as in my experience of the past few days they’re smashing.

Literally as a taster to my Tannat Day experience, I sipped Narbona Tannat Roble (RRP £24.99, but as I write it is reduced to £21.99 online at www.simplywinesdirect.uk).

This tannat wine spent 18 months in oak barrels and 27 months in bottle before released – and so it is no surprise it has characteristics from oak and bottle aging influences.

Bodega Cerro Chapeu vineyards in Rivera in northern Uruguay. Picture: Cerro Chapeu

It’s a full-bodied purply-red wine that is big and proud, with fresh plums and red fruits and dried fruits which woo your senses. The tannins are integrated and there’s a fleck of spice on the finish.

I’m a little sad when I read on a label that a wine has a potential aging of 10-15 years and I’ve sipped it in its relative youth. Ah, what a glory it will be in a few years!

How did tannat and Uruguay become so closely interlinked?

Much like Argentina and malbec, Chile and carménère, there is now a deep-rooted relationship between Uruguay and the tannat grape variety.

British writer Amanda Barnes is a specialist in South American wines

Tannat, you see, hails from France, just like malbec and carménère.

It’s home is in south west France and specifically the areas of Madiran where it creates big bold reds.

The grape was introduced to Uruguay around 1870 by Basque immigrants.

British writer Amanda Barnes is a specialist in South American wines and she joined forces with Uruguay Wine to help bring the love of tannat to people like me in Uruguay Wine Week.

Amanda shared some facts via her wonderfully thorough website www. southamericawineguide.com.

She says it is no coincidence that of all grape varieties, it is tannat that has emerged as Uruguay’s champion.

She quotes winemaker Reinaldo de Lucca who says “we didn’t choose tannat, tannat chose us!”

Amanda explains that the thick skins of tannat are resistant to Uruguay’s humid conditions and suit its changeable coastal climate “down to a tee”.

Food pairing ideas were a big part of Tannat Day. I doubt my pairing with this wine will win any awards.

The wine being Finca Traversa Tannat (£9.49, online at www.frazierswine.co.uk).

As an aside, Finca Traversa also has a tannat merlot blend in the Co-op (£8).

A plate of bangers and mash with a glass of this ruby tannat wine brought comfort to my life on a particularly nippy April evening.

It oozes ripe plums, has a touch of pepper and is perfect with a humble sausage (I won’t mention the HP sauce).

Seek out tannat wine from Uruguay... 0h, and maybe launch the Spotify playlist by Uruguay Wine to get you into the South American vibe!

To find out more, follow @Uruguay.Wine and @southamericawineguide on social media, or go to www.uruguay.wine and southamericawineguide.com.

A new book on South American wine is available via Amanda’s website RRP £29.

Tasty tannat

Some of you keeping track, who dip into this wine space of mine on a regular basis, may have noticed that my A-Z travels around the world of drinks came to a standstill.

It was the turn of the Letter T but instead I went touring around other topics.

Well let me say that tannat is the theme beginning with the Letter T. It’s a capital subject.

Mark the occasion of being back on the metaphorical road with Aldi’s Criollo, Specially Selected Uruguayan Tannat (£6.99).

It’s one of the retailer’s limited edition seasonal wines.

This red is from Maldonado on the coastline and is deep ruby in colour. It is ripe with plums and raspberries, and has a soft, fruity texture to sip. Lovely.

Jane Clare is One Foot in the Grapes, a programme provider for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust.