Uruguay is producing some really interesting wines. Tannat is widely planted throughout the region and has deservedly taken on the role as the country’s national grape.
Tannat is a thick-skinned grape that is highly tannic and thus aptly named. The ancestral home of Tannat is Madiran, a small village at the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains in Southwest France. In 1870 Basque immigrant, Pascual Harriague brought the grape to Uruguay.
Tannat is a big, tight, earthy, dense and tannic grape varietal. Uruguayan Tannat is more elegant with softer tannins than its Madiran counterpart. Tannat is a deliciously full-bodied wine with luscious black fruit and notes of licorice, vanilla, cocoa, cardamom and spice. Powerful, structured, complex and tannic, Tannat can make Cabernet Sauvignon seem like a baby.
Coming from Madiran, Tannat easily acclimated to the soil and climate of Uruguay. Not just because of the soils, Tannat also become the national grape of Uruguay because it goes so well with the local cuisine. Uruguayans loves beef, and it is a prime part of their consumption. Beef and hearty meats are the perfect complement to Tannat.
Meat is a big deal in Uruguay and is part of their tradition and culture in which they take great pride. It is a country where the number of cattle actually outnumber the people by 3 to 1. So you can imagine, when eating a juicy steak at a Parrilla, wine becomes a big deal. The protein and fat component of a steak help soften the tannins on the palate, making Tannat the ideal choice.
Over the last decade, many Uruguay producers have pushed to make better quality Tannat. To make Tannat more palatable, as many may consider the tannins of Tannat to be to harsh, many winemaker are taming it’s tannins by blending it with other varietals. One of the most recognized producer of Tannat based blends is Alto De La Ballena.
Alto de la Ballena is a small winery that defined new directions in Uruguayan viticulture, starting with its first plantations in 2001. Located in the Sierra de la Ballena, 15 kilometers from the coast, it has the benefits of both the ocean breezes and mountain soils. The Bodega has just over 8 hectares of Merlot, Tannat, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Viognier, with limited production of high quality wines.
The Alto De La Ballena Reserve Tannat-Viognier 2013 is their flagship wine. The wine is a blend of 85% Tannat and 15% Viognier. The wine has a deep violet red color with intense and complex aromas. On the nose there are red fruits, spices and wild flowers. In the mouth it has a soft and pleasant entrance. There is good structure and a long lingering finish. The Viognier gives a rich yet elegant bouquet and tames Tannat’s natural vigour.
If you are looking to expand your palate try Tannat from Uruguay. It is a unique, complex and a wonderful food wine. The structured tannins of Tannat also makes it extremely age worthy. The best part is they are affordable.
Wine Pairing Weekend #WinePW
If you enjoy Tannat or are intrigued by the wines of Uruguay, be sure to read some of the great posts by my fellow wine lovers as we all explore and take a deep dive in Uruguay wine and food. If you see this post early enough, please join our Twitter chat, Saturday February 9th at 11am EST. Follow along hashtag #winepw.
- Pinny at Chinese Food and Wine Pairings presents Uruguay’s Bodega Garzon Tannat Paired with Lamb Skewers and Beef Short Ribs
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla gives us Brined Quail with a Numbered Bottle of Tannat
- Cindy from Grape Experiences provides Taste Uruguay: 1752 Gran Tradicion Montevideo 2017 and Pasta with Caruso Sauce
- David from Cooking Chat stirs up BBQ Baked Steak Tips with Wine from Uruguay
- Wendy from A Day In The Life On The Farm presents Food and Wine of Uruguay; Chivito Sandwiches paired with Garzon Cab Franc
- Jeff from FoodWineClick offers up Picturing Uruguay with Lentil Stew & Aguara Tannat
- Kat from Bacchus Travel & Tours hints at a Hidden Gem: On the Hunt for Wine from Uruguay
- Jane from Always Ravenous stirs up Discovering Uruguayan Wine Paired with a Winter Plate
- Steven from Steven’s Wine And Food Blog shares Tannat and Brazilian Feijoada #WinePW
- Linda from My Full Wine Glass asks Meatless in Uruguay – Is that possible? #WinePW
- Deanna from Asian Test Kitchen says Relax Your Mussels with Uruguayan Albarino
- Sarah from Curious Cuisiniere pairs Tannat from Uruguay and French Cassoulet
- Nancy from Pull That Cork gives us Uruguay: a Wine and Food Sampler #winePW
- Gwen from Wine Predator shares Uruguay: Influenced by Immigrants #WinePW
- Jennifer from VinoTravels presents Bodega Garzón Tannat with Sausage Stew
- Martin of ENOFYLZ Wine Blog writes A Taste of the #Food and #Wine of Uruguay
- Rupal from Syrah Queen is ready with Tannat – The National Grape of Uruguay
- Nicole from Somm’s Table serves Two Rounds with Bodega Garzón Tannat: Chivitos and Chipotle-Coffee Flank Steak
- Our Host Jill at L’Occasion rolls out To All The Foods I’ve Loved Before: Pairing Uruguayan Tannat