It was pretty much the full expectation, before my trip to Uruguay, that the country’s signature grape would have to be paired up with grilled meat.
And it’s true, Tannat and Parilla––meat cooked over an open fire––is very much a thing. But, it turns out Tannat from Uruguay is packed with freshness. To a wine, Uruguayan Tannat is not harsh––based on my recent tasting of around 120 wines from Uruguay, a large portion of them Tannat. This makes it an exceptionally food-friendly offering.
Some excerpts from my tasting notes:
“satiating acidity, mineral earth + acid = elevated freshness”
“dried herbs and fruit, elegant and fresh”
“structure that keeps the fruit alive”
“fresh and juicy black fruit integrated with acid”
“fruit goes to structure then there’s a pop of clean acid on the finish”
“old world elegance and alive, gastronomic wine”
“high-quality tannins enlarge, then fade to acid and juiciness”
My point is clear, this defines expectations, at least it defied mine. As so, in the course of the trip I had fresh fish, french fries, baked cheese, dulce de leche, garden greens, sweetbreads, chicharrones, lasagne, empanadas, sausages, steak, tapas, grilled veggies, eggs, beets, caviar… you name it, I ate it. And with most of it, I paired at least a sip or two of Tannat.
My earlier experiences with Tannat were that of Madrigan in southern France and more so that of Virginia. It turns out that the Virginia Tannats have an interesting connection to Uruguay because of the moisture level present in the vineyards. In Uruguay, it’s in the form of rain. In Virginia, it’s in the form of humidity. Though one might consider Bordeaux to be akin––another Atlantic-coastal, rainy environment––Virginia seems to align more closely, not only in my opinion but also in that of some of the winemakers. “More close to Virginia than Bordeaux,” says Reinaldo De Lucca, director of De Lucca winery in Las Piedras, Canelones district. De Lucca says, “any Tannat should have mild, mature tannins.”
Pablo Fallabri, director of Viñedo de los Vientos makes a natural Tannat, which I tasted at his winery, with Pearl Jam playing in the background and two cool dogs watching the front door. Anarkia is made with native yeast and cold filtered to clean, there’s nothing else but “grapes washed from the rain.” Fallabri also makes a ripasso-style Tannat with grapes that have dried on the vine.
I tasted the 1999 Preludio from Establecimiento Juanicó, chosen directly from the family cellar. Federico de Moura, the four-time winner of Uruguay’s best sommelier shared that the 1992 vintage of this particular wine was the first Grand Reserve of Uruguay. “Then we changed our mind,” says de Moura. “Not just rustic.” He called it a “game-changer” for Uruguayan wine.
At Bodega Garzón, further east in the Maldonado department, I tasted Balasto, a blend of 45% Tannat, 25% Cabernet Franc, 18% Petit Verdot and 12% Marselan. And while I’m not focusing heavily on Tannat blends in this piece, I want to note that this wine was served at a meal with Alejandro Bulgheroni, owner of Bodega Garzón.
I was fortunate enough to get a sample from Aguará wine, a limited-edition Tannat from El Caprichio winery in the Durazno department, situated in central Uruguay. All of the wineries I visited were closer to the coast, near Montevideo or further east near Punte del Este. This was a good test to my theory, I thought.
And still: the freshness and quality acidity that I’d discovered through and through. There is beautiful dark fruit, complex and dashed with a hint of cocoa, dried herbs in the distance, tannins bowing to structure. Another beautifully food-friendly wine.
More About Uruguay
Wine Pairing Weekend
Join us on our blogs and on twitter with the hashtag #WinePW to go behind the curtain on our discoveries:
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
Nicole from Somm’s Table serves Two Rounds with Bodega Garzón Tannat: Chivitos and Chipotle-Coffee Flank Steak
Rupal from Syrah Queen is ready with Tannat – The National Grape of Uruguay
Here at L’Occasion, we roll out To All The Foods I’ve Loved Before: Pairing Uruguayan Tannat