Regions and Appellations Uruguay

Uruguayan Wine

Uruguay is the fourth-largest wine-producing country in South America. Wine grapes have been grown here for over 250 years, although commercial viniculture did not begin until the second half of the 19th century, two centuries or so after Chile and Argentina. In the past few decades Uruguayan wine has emerged quietly and steadily onto the world wine market, not as dramatically as that of its larger neighbors, but with promising poise and confidence.

No summary of Uruguayan wine is complete without mention of Tannat, the robust, tannic red that has played such a pivotal role in the country's rising wine status. Just as Chile has its Carmenere and Argentina its Malbec, so Tannat has risen to become Uruguay's 'icon' grape. The first Tannat vines to arrive here were shipped across the Atlantic by 19th-century settlers from the Basque country (the autonomous communities between southern France and northern Spain). Don Pascual Harriague is the man typically given credit for Tannat's dissemination around Uruguay; for a long time the name Harriague was used as a synonym for the variety.

The flag of Uruguay

The family line of those original Tannat vines has remained largely unaltered, a genetic snapshot of rustic southern French wine from that era. Modern Tannat clones brought in from present-day French vineyards have proved quite distinct, offering more powerful (if more structurally simple) wines with higher alcohol and lower acidity. It is ironic that this New World style should emerge from a decidedly Old World wine country, and that one of the world's 'newest' wine countries should produce such Old World-style wines.

Tannat in all forms has proved well suited to the South American climate – demonstrably better, in fact, than that at the heart of south-west France, the Madiran vineyards of which might be viewed as the variety's spiritual home. As viticultural and winemaking techniques continue to progress in Uruguay, the ability to capitalize on this synergy will only increase, likely confirming Uruguay's status as a reliable source of world-class red wine.

The Vitis vinifera vine species is not native to the Americas, and those species that are native (Vitis labrusca, Vitis rotundifolia, Vitis aestivalis, Vitis berlandieri, Vitis rupestris and Vitis riparia) proved less suitable for winemaking than their European Vitis vinifera cousins. It is no surprise, then, that the wine grape varieties used in newly developing wine nations (of which Uruguay is a prime example) are those well-known Vitis vinifera vines that have proved commercially successful around the world. Thus Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc head up the 'dry red wines other than Tannat' category, while their light-skinned equivalents Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are behind most of Uruguay's modern-style dry whites. Aromatic Viognier is also increasingly popular among Uruguayan vignerons, as it is in Chile, Argentina and many other parts of the world, notably California, eastern Australia and New Zealand.

Underpinning the development of Uruguay's quality wine production is a significant quantity of bulk rose wine, made mostly from Black Muscat (Muscat Hamburg). Behemoth Brazil, immediately to the north, has traditionally been a key export focus for Uruguayan wines, although as the quality improves, doors are opening all over the world market.

The majority of Uruguayan wine is made from vineyards in the south of the country, in the Canelones, Montevideo and San Jose departments. There are small patches of viticultural activity all around the western periphery, along the border with the Entre Rios province of eastern Argentina. There is even one notable outcrop in the northern Riviera department, at Cerro Chapeau, just across the Paraguay-Brazil border from Brazil's Campanha wine region. The distance north to the next Brazilian wine region beyond Campanha (Serra Gaucha) is some 275 miles (445km), roughly equivalent to Uruguay's entire width; the differences in scale between Brazil and Uruguay are hard to overstate.

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Most Popular Uruguayan Wine

Based on search frequency, updated monthly
Wine Name
Grape
Popularity
Score
Avg Price
Bodega Garzon Reserva Tannat, Maldonado, Uruguay Tannat 3,501st 90 $18
Bodega Garzon Reserva Albarino, Maldonado, Uruguay Albarino (Alvarinho) 9,108th 89 $19
Bodega Garzon Single Vineyard Tannat, Maldonado, Uruguay Tannat 10,888th 91 $31
Bodega Garzon Tannat, Maldonado, Uruguay Tannat 11,026th 88 $17
Bouza Tannat, Montevideo, Uruguay Tannat 12,264th 89 $21
Vesubio Grappa Miel, Uruguay Eau-de-Vie 14,152nd $5
Bouza Monte Vide Eu, Montevideo, Uruguay Rare Red Blend 14,235th 91 $45
Familia Deicas Preludio Barrel Select Red, Juanico, Uruguay Cabernet - Tannat 15,405th 89 $35
Bodega Garzon Estate 'Balasto', Maldonado, Uruguay Rare Red Blend 16,512th 92 $101
Bodegas Carrau Amat Tannat, Cerro Chapeau, Uruguay Tannat 22,015th 89 $43
Bodega Garzon Reserva Marselan, Maldonado, Uruguay Marselan 25,114th 89 $18
Familia Deicas 'Massimo Deicas' Tannat, Juanico, Uruguay Tannat 26,521st 90 $61
Bodega Garzon Reserva Cabernet Franc, Maldonado, Uruguay Cabernet Franc 26,818th 89 $18
Alto de la Ballena Reserva Tannat - Viognier, Uruguay Rare Red Blend 32,630th 89 $21
Bodega Garzon Single Vineyard Petit Verdot, Maldonado, Uruguay Petit Verdot 33,990th 90 $32
Pisano Cisplatino Pequena Reserva Tannat - Merlot, Progreso, Uruguay Merlot - Tannat 35,361st 87 $13
Pisano RPF Reserva Personal de la Familia Tannat, Progreso, Uruguay Tannat 35,864th 89 $23
Bodegas Carrau 'Juan Carrau' Tannat de Reserva, Cerro Chapeu, Uruguay Tannat 36,363rd 88 $13
Narbona Tannat Roble, Puerto Carmelo, Uruguay Tannat 37,375th 89 $16
Vinedo de los Vientos Alcyone Tannat, Canelones, Uruguay Tannat 40,240th 89 $40
H. Stagnari Tannat Viejo, Salto, Uruguay Tannat 41,565th 86 $18
Bodega Garzon Albarino, Maldonado, Uruguay Albarino (Alvarinho) 46,688th 88 $17
Familia Deicas Licor de Tannat, Juanico, Uruguay Tannat 47,525th 89 $27
Bodega Garzon Single Vineyard Albarino, Maldonado, Uruguay Albarino (Alvarinho) 48,408th 90 $32
Bodega Garzon Estate Pinot Noir Rose, Maldonado, Uruguay Pinot Noir 52,301st 89 $16
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To see how Wine-Searcher uses average pricing and professional wine critic scores on this page, please see Average Wine Prices and Wine Scores. To find out about popularity, please see Wine Ranks.
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