Tannat Vines in Uruguay

Have you ever heard the expression, “Good things come in small packages”?  Well, if it was ever used of any country in the world, we would use it of Uruguay.  Though it is one of the smallest countries in Latin America, it ranks number one in terms of labor and political freedoms.  In addition, Uruguayans experience the highest quality of life of those living in the lower half of the Americas.

Perhaps, one of the main factors in keeping Uruguay so small is the fact that it is nearly completely surrounded by bodies of water.   The Yaguaron River and the Uruguay River trace its northern and western borders, while it is delimited in the south by the immense River Plata estuary and, to the east, by the Atlantic Ocean.   While some may look negatively upon this unique characteristic, it actually provides an essential element to one of the many “good things” that we have found in Uruguay.

uruguay water

Whenever people think of excellent wines, usually, the first country that comes to mind is France.  Uruguay, however, is home to one of the most highly acclaimed wines in the world, Tannat.  Because of its subtropical climate, excellent soil, and abundant supply of water for agriculture, it presents ideal conditions for the cultivation of grapes.  Vineyards cover more than 22,000 acres of land, of which a third are dedicated exclusively to the cultivation of Tannat grapes.  The full-bodied and fruity red wine produced from Tannat grapes in Uruguay introduced the world to Uruguayan wines and, for that reason, Tannat wine is widely considered the national wine of Uruguay.

Grape Vines

We should mention, however, that Tannat wine has a “French Connection”.  The first Tannat vine cultivated in Uruguay came from the Basque region of southern France.  Despite that fact, the unique climatic, geographical, and pedological conditions found in Uruguay give extraordinary qualities to Tannat wine that clearly distinguish it from its French counterpart.   Uruguay even has more vineyards that produce Tannat grapes than France.  For these, reasons, we would agree with our friends that Tannat wine is truly “Uruguayan Wine”.

It is just one of the many good things that we have discovered as we have been unwrapping Uruguay.  Those good things constitute gratifying components of what makes Uruguay a great place to live and work.  Maybe, someday, you’ll be able to visit us here and join us in unwrapping the little package and finding good things inside!

  • http://www.artesanawinery.com Leslie Fellows/Artesana Winery

    Many thanks for the attention you bring to Uruguay and to its signature varietal Tannat. There are 270 wineries in Uruguay and many are producing outstanding and award winning wines. Our (female) winemakers at my family winery Artesana in the acclaimed Canelones region of Uruguay, make gorgeous Tannat wines. You do have to spend a little more in the U.S. to get a good Tannat from Uruguay–the best are $20 and up. This is because wine production is very small (as you point out) and wines are typically handcrafted. Uruguay is an extraordinary country and in its warm, maritime climate, Tannat is a gem! Our wines are sold in California, I hope you’ll try one! If you come to Uruguay, please visit us, we are part of the wine trail, “Los Caminos del Vino.” http://www.artesanawinery.com.