Burgundy has pinot noir, Napa Valley has cabernet sauvignon, and Uruguay has... If you don’t know how to finish that sentence, you soon will; the robust red grape tannat is Uruguay’s rising star.
Tannat originated in the Basque region of southwest France, where the village of Madiran still produces high quality wines made from the grape. Otherwise, tannat is relatively unknown around the world, except in Uruguay, where it makes up one third of all wine produced and has become the “national wine.”
Tannat vines were brought to Uruguay in the 1870s by Basque immigrants, so many of the vines currently planted are direct descendents of pre-phylloxera vines. Local winemakers say this gives Uruguayan tannat different qualities--less tannin, higher acidity--than its French counterpart. Many Uruguayan winemakers experiment with both types, as well as with blending tannat with “international varieties” like merlot and cabernet sauvignon, and with aging the wine in oak barrels.
The wines made from tannat are robust, rich with dark fruit and chocolate notes, and have full tannic structures. They are excellent with meats, from steak to lamb to grilled chicken. A few of our favorites to pair with summer BBQ:
PUEBLO DEL SOL Tannat Reserva 2010 (Juanico, Uruguay) $11
BODEGA BOUZA Tannat Reserva 2011 (Canelones, Uruguay) $19
PISANO ARRETXEA Tannat RPF 2011 (Uruguay) $19
FAMILIA DEICAS PRELUDIO Barrel Select Red 2011 (Juanico, Uruguay) $45
Have you discovered tannat yet? Let us know below.
Photo Credit: Rodrigo Soldon.