The SOMM Journal

February / March 2016

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122 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } FEBRUARY/MARCH 2016 { south america } "HEY LOOK AT US. WE'RE A SMALL COUNTRY WITH A BIG WINE." What makes the bigness of Uruguayan wines is the robust grape variety, Tannat, a thick-skinned, tannic grape distinguished by having five seeds com- pared to two or three in most wine varietals. High in healthy polyphenols (which is a great excuse to consume it), Tannat has a flavor profile that is unique. The grape originates from the Basque-French area of Madiran. It was brought to Uruguay around 1870 by optimistic farmers and is the flagship of the country's wine industry. Neighbor Argentina championed Malbec; Uruguay has wisely "bet the farm" on Tannat. The wineries are unique in their multi-generational makeup, with common roots from Italy and Spain, combining centuries of wine history in the New World. The goal of the families is not to make technical wines, but artisanal ones, and their passion is evident. Although there is a promotional associa- tion—Wines of Uruguay—there is no regulatory body (yet) and no rules, which allows winemakers to express themselves, and the grape, freely. There are some designated wine-growing regions, the majority within close proximity to the capital of Montevideo. Geographically Uruguay is situ- ated at the same Southern Hemisphere latitude as Chile, Argentina, South Africa and Australia. Its location on the Rio de la Plata and the Atlantic Ocean, combined with its unique terroir and cool breezes, create growing conditions that perfectly suit Tannat. The grape's tannins have been tamed to a degree by experienced vineyard management. Of the more than 200 wineries in Uruguay, only around 20 are so far exporting to the U.S. The following are some of the wines worth seeking out made from 100% Tannat. There is an interest to export more wines and an opportunity to present something new in the glass for anyone with a vision. As one winemaker put it "the rest of the world is not expecting us, so we have to deliver something unique." And they are. "Tannat-alizing" Wines TANNAT WAVES THE FLAG OF URUGUAY by Rachel and David Michael Cane by Rachel and David Michael Cane

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