**This article first appeared in Santé Magazine in May 2023**
Uruguay may be small in size but it really packs a punch when it comes to quality wines. Oftentimes overshadowed by its neighbors Argentina, Brazil and Chile, Uruguay’s wines should not be overlooked. If you love discovering new wines and new regions, Uruguay is an exciting region that needs to be on your radar. It combines a unique blend of old-world traditional winemaking techniques with new-world terroir and modern technology.
Uruguay Wines – The Best-Kept Secret Of The South
A small country with a population of 3.5 million, Uruguay is a country with European heritage with descendants from Italy and Spain. With its European culture, it is no surprise they are making quality wines. In a region that loves to party and have fun, wine is part of their heritage and daily lifestyle.
Winemaking traditions in Uruguay began in the 18th century when the Spanish brought wine to the region. With 5000 hectares of vineyards and 164 active wineries, the country is making a splash on the international wine scene. A country that loves to drink and have a good time, they have the largest per-liter consumption of wine in the world with 24 liters of wines consumed per capita (+18 years). Most wines are made for domestic consumption, so you can be sure they are making the best of the best.
Uruguay Wines – Unique Terroir
Uruguay is in 30-35 degree southern latitudes, the same as Mendoza and Santiago. It is a region that blends old-world and new-world wine traditions. The terroir is really interesting, It has a maritime climate, with granite soils, lots of mountainous high-elevation vineyards, and many vineyards in the desert. When it comes to climate and soil, Uruguay is similar to Bordeaux. It is a grape-growing region with lots of rainfall as both regions are influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. Both have vineyards near rivers and tributaries and both regions are relatively humid and both have a mild climate.
Uruguay Fun Facts
If Uruguay is a new region for you, here are some fun facts that are super interesting…
Similar in surface area to the state of Wisconsin, with a population close to that of Connecticut.
With 14,804 acres under vine, the wine regions are slightly larger than Saint-Émilion in Bordeaux and slightly smaller than Alexander Valley in California.
The only South American terroir whose climate is affected by the Atlantic Ocean.
180 wineries are currently operating in the country. Most are family-run, with two-thirds located in the Metropolitan Region.
More than 50% of the grape harvest in Uruguay is done by hand.
The vineyards of Maldonado are planted above some of the oldest rock on earth, the Río de La Plata craton, which is 2.5 billion years old.
Tannat is the most widely planted variety in Uruguay at 3,892 acres.
In Uruguay, Tannat is also known as Harriague(Ha-ree-AH-gay), the surname of the first producer to plant it in the country.
The VCP label stands for Wine of Preferential Quality and distinguishes fine wines from mass-market versions.
The oldest winery in Uruguay dates back to 1854 and is called Los Cerros de San Juan. Visitors are welcome!
Uruguay has the longest carnival in the world, 50 days. Even longer than Brazil!
Cows outnumber humans in Uruguay 4 to 1 and Uruguayans consume more meat per capita than any other country in the world!
9 Wines From Uruguay To Try Now
There are many grape varieties planted in Uruguay. Tannat may be the most iconic grape variety of Uruguay but Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Albarino are also widely planted.
Discover the best-kept secret of the Southern Hemisphere with these nine unique and exceptional wines.
Familia Traversa Sauvignon Blanc 2022
The Familia Traversa Sauvignon Blanc is grown on chalky clay soils only 12 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. The wine has great freshness with passionfruit and lime. The wine resembles a Graves-style Bordeaux white wine. Light and totally refreshing on the palate, this Sauvignon Blanc is a great partner to seafood and sushi.
Cerro Chapeau Castel Pujol Folklore Blanco 2021
Bodegas Cerro Chapeau is located in northern Uruguay at 1000 feet above sea level. The vineyards are comprised of red sandy soils with lots of iron. Pujol Folklore Bianco is a lovely wine that is a blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia. The wine truly showcases the terroir. This blend is aromatic on the nose and concentrated on the palate with notes of wildflowers and tropical fruit.
Juanico Don Pascual Coastal White Albarino Blend 2022
Located just 15 miles from the ocean this Coastal White is a blend of Albarino and Chardonnay with a bit of Pinot Grigio and Verdejo. Close proximity to the ocean keeps the temperature down so you have nice acidity and mouthfeel. This Albarino blend is aromatic, and balanced, and has nice salinity from its coastal influences.
Antigua Bodega Prima Donna Tannat 2018
This Tannat comes from a unique terroir of natural pink granite, that gives the wine nice minerality. The wine has a nice balance of fruit and oak. The mouthfeel has sweet tannins that work well with meat dishes and barbecues. The wine is fresh and has a full-body sensation on the palate.
Artesana Tannat Merlot Zinafandel Reserva 2020
This Tannat blend is bold and beautiful and can be paired with grilled meats and strong cheeses. It is bold, juicy and full of black fruit and spices. This Tannat with a blend of Merlot and Zinfandel makes it light and silky.
Viña Progreso Overground Cabernet Franc 2020
The wine has an intense color, flavor and structure, showing the character that the climate and soil imprint on each wine. Cabernet Franc works well in Uruguay’s humid conditions. The wine is all about freshness, minerality and good acidity. The bright acidity makes it a great pairing for a variety of foods.
Bodega Garzon Tannat Single Vineyard 2020
Garzon is focused on producing wines of the highest quality with a distinctive identity, strong personality and sense of place. This classic Tannat is deep purple in color with fresh aromas reminiscent of red and black fruits such as plums and raspberries. It has a great personality in the mouth. The ripe tannins and its minerality make it a terroir wine of great identity.
El Capricho Aguará Tannat Special Reserve 2018
Aguará is an exceptional Tannat of intense and dark red color. The palate is elegant and complex with flavors of nuts and cassis. It is a complex and refined wine with nice harmony. A wine with great potential for aging.
Vermut Flores Rosé Vermouth
This Vermouth is a blend of 27 botanicals made with Tannat rosé with short maturation. Its botanicals are roots, barks, herbs, fruit and flowers such as rose, hop, chamomile and elderflower, Vermut Flores is medium pink color with floral notes and complex spice that is a marvelous play between bitterness and sweetness. Serve it with ice and a slice of lemon or orange. A super fun wine showcasing the innovations of Uruguay.