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Tannat is Right at Home in Uruguay

The wine industry of Uruguay is growing fast while staying true to their old world roots. Located in the southeastern portion of the continent of South America lies a hidden gem that not many people know about, let alone many wine drinkers. Uruguay is an epicenter of food and wine culture, yet often overlooked in favor of larger, more well known nations.

"The Italian & Basque immigrants brought their food, culture and love of wine to this small country in southeastern South America."

The nation of Uruguay has wine production history dating back to the mid 1800's, when Italian and Basque immigrants brought their vine cuttings to the new world, along with their love of food and wine. The burgeoning industry feels European, as the wine they produce is suited best for the cuisine they enjoy. The Tannat grape, a vine most associated with the Madiran region of France, calls Uruguay its home away from home, comprising one third of the vineyard plantings in the country.

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While the wines of Madiran were never popular on the export market, Uruguayan offerings of Tannat have been slowly gaining headway in the wine drinking lexicon. Sommeliers are often fans of these wines, as they offer the fruit quality of the new world, but usually come with considerable acidity and old world charm, characteristics admired by the wine professional community. The higher quality examples of wine from this nation are often on the pricier side, and alongside a very popular grape named Malbec, the fortunes of Tannat are on a slower growth path at the present moment.


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The region of Mendoza in Argentina is undoubtedly the champion of South America wine production, as it has been transformed into an impressive economy of scale. One could argue the next great artisanal region in South America is the Canelones region of Uruguay, as the Tannat offerings coming from here are world class. The attention to detail is on par with all of the great wine regions of the continent, and the wines often have a rustic, old world style to them enjoyed by many wine enthusiasts. We do not get many calls for Tannat, or Uruguayan wines in the hospitality environment, mostly because they are little known. However, these offerings should be on our radar as hospitality professionals, as they could be a major player in the years to come.

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We can expect the Tannat grape from Uruguay to be well suited for one of the most meat-heavy diets in the developed world. The Uruguayans love their red meat and pork, and just because this country has access to the best seafood in the world doesn't stop the citizens of this nation consuming more beef per capita than any other country. One can understand why they have put their faith in grape they have, as the higher tannin and acidity is a great match for the typical diet in Uruguay.

The capital city of Montevideo is a vibrant cultural center, with a dining scene that is in its early stages of maturation. More known for their casual mercado dining, the Uruguayans are less pretentious about their food scene than some of their neighboring nations. As the cultural center of the country become a sought after destination amongst food and wine lovers, the fine wine industry will continue to grow from the exposure. Until then, the nations producers will rely on sommeliers in the know and savvy wine shoppers, as Uruguay is definitely a country not to miss on your traveling and drinking adventures.


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