My first time in Uruguay. I didn’t know what to expect when I came here: I’d tried a few Uruguayan wines, but that was it.
My first impressions? It’s a small country of 3.5 million people, with Brazil to the north and Argentina to the west. It’s quite a stable country, with a good economy: probably the most stable in South America.
It’s mostly flat. The main vineyard area is around Montevideo, and has heavy clay soils with some limestone in the subsoil. It also has a coastal influence. The newer region of Maldonado to the east of the country has a similar coastal influence, but decomposed granitic soils.
The weather is unpredictable, and it can be rainy even during the growing season. It’s not a hot climate, and there’s a bit of humidity. The result? Wines that have freshness and brightness, when they are well made.
Tannat is the key red grape, and does really well here. It likes the humidity, and gives good yields. Handled well, it produces lovely bright, fruity reds with nice flesh to the fruit, with good structure. But Merlot and Marselan are also widely planted. Cabernet Sauvignon is grown here but struggles for ripeness, and it’s early days for Pinot Noir. Some Italian varieties do well here, but aren’t widely planted: Aglianico, Sangiovese, Nero d’Avola. Malbec is rare but pretty good.
There’s a lot of excitement about Albariño, first planted here in 2001, but not yet that widely grown. Sauvignon can be bright and assertive, as can Chardonnay. There’s a bit of Viognier grown here, too.
I found lots of wines to like. My write-ups will begin to appear on the main wineanorak site soon. This isn’t a place to come for natural wine, or even for organic wine – although there’s every reason these will come. I met lots of smart, thoughtful winegrowers here who are trying to do the right thing, and the freshness and precision of Uruguayan wines is really refreshing. I have another day of tasting tomorrow, but I’ve already tasted enough really good wines to have made this trip out worthwhile.