Uruguay has more than 200 wineries spread across about half a dozen different wine regions including Colonia, Canelones, Rivera, San Jose and Salto. While each has its unique terroir and is suited to different grapes, the country does produce a wide range of both white wines (including albarino, chardonnay and riesling) and red wines (such as cabernet, cabernet franc, merlot, tempranillo, pinot noir and, by far the most common red, tannat, a generally oaky, tanniny wine).
Although we would have loved to spend more time exploring the country’s different wine regions, we only had a day to sample the wares of three wineries from wineries on the northern fringe of Montevideo.
Our stops were:
Bodega Bouza. We rented a car to explore wine country and this was our first stop. Unfortunately, our GPS took us to the middle of no-where. As we were trying to puzzle out where we were, a kind person stopped to see if he could help. But as we were in the middle of no-where, he couldn’t get a signal on his phone so we had no choice but to backtrack back to a gas station where an employee drew us a map on how to get to the Bodega. Once we arrived, we enjoyed a tasting of five wines, each paired with cheeses and hams in their restaurant. We began with a nice, very dry, slightly floral unoaked 2013 Riesling paired with a mild Galician cheese. We were then onto reds, beginning with a 2014 blend of 70 percent Merlot and 30 percent Tannat where half spent eight months in neutral oak (pretty astringent for our tastes). It was paired with Colonia cheese and ham. Then to our favorite of the tasting–a 2013 Monte Vide Eu blend (55 percent Tannat, 22 percent Merlot and 22 percent Tempranillo)—a beautifully balanced wine that spent 14 months in new American oak and shows black cherry in the front with a mild Tannat astringency in the back. This was paired with blue cheese and smoked ham. The final two wines, both paired with blue cheese, were two 100 percent Tannats from different vintages and regions: a nice, mild 2015 with one month in stainless and six months in the bottle (no oak); and a more robust, but very smooth 2013 that spent 18 months in new French oak. A very nice guided paired tasting in a lovely dining room. We only wish we had time to sample some dishes from the very interesting menu.
Bodegas Juanico. Our next stop was Bodegas Juanico where we tasted an olive oil (Olivia, which was too acidic for our taste) and four wines, beginning with a very nice Methode Champenoise Castalar Extra Brut sparkler, followed by a heavily oaked (too heavily for our taste) 2014 Atlantico Sur single-vineyard Chardonnay. Then we tried two reds: a heavily-oaked 2009 Preludio blend (Merlot, Tannat, Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Marsalane, which is a hybrid of Cabernet and Grenache) from which we got leather and tobacco, but not a hint of fruit; finishing with the winery’s premium wine—2009 Massimo, which is a combination of select Tannat grapes from the best vineyards, processed all by hand and fermented in large, neutral oak barriques and followed by 18 months in new French oak barrels. Nice fruit, followed by leather and finished with typical Tannat astringency.
Bodega Carrau. This was our last stop for the day. Even though our concierge had made us a reservation to visit the previous day, we arrived only to find that it was mysteriously closed. Despite this, the accommodating guard let us through the gates and guided us to a tasting room where a very accommodating attendant, took pity on us and guided us through a tasting of two wines: 2013 Juan Carrou Tannat de Reserva, which spent 12 months in new and neutral French oak, had the deep color and texture of a big-bodied Tanat, a little dark fruit, but subdued astringency. That was followed by an absolutely superb, single-vineyard Amat Vineyard Tannat that spent 24 months in new oak—a wonderful wine with expressive fruit, followed by leather and a much softer finish than one would expect from a Tannat.