Tasting the Wines of Uruguay, 2023 Releases
Uruguay isn’t the first nation that comes to mind when thinking of South American wines, but not too far off in the future, it very well may be. Hot take, I know. However, with the ever-changing climate, a commitment to sustainability, and multi-generational families experimenting and diversifying offerings and varietals, this small nation of 3.4 million may have something to boast about other than sporting one hell of a good national football team and rich cultural history.
The usual association with Uruguay is with wines made from Tannat grapes, but there’s much more variety and innovation coming to the forefront. Along with the nearly 200 existing family-run wineries, more are coming up online every day, with zero signs of this trend receding. We were fortunate enough to have an opportunity to sample a diverse array of the country’s latest offerings. They never stray too far off the Tannat flagship tip, but there’s enough here to surprise and impress.
2020 Artesana Tannat-Merlot-Zinfandel – 55% Tannat, 35% Merlot, and 15% Zinfandel. Full-bodied, with endless layers of blackberry, plum, cedar, clove, and licorice melding together nicely with a long and lively finish. Fine tannins and medium acidity frame a delightful experience from nose to finish. A- / $23
2020 Garzón Single Vineyard Tannat – Rich and lush with surprisingly deep notes of strawberry, plum, and tobacco on the nose, quite reminiscent of a Malbec from the Mendoza region of Argentina. With time, the palate displays a wonderful mix of what was presented on the nose along with dark chocolate and baking spice for greater depth. A slight touch of oak on the back end, and the finish presents an immensely satisfying blend of chocolate and strawberry. Beautifully done. A- / $29
NV Basta Spirit Vermut Flores Rosé – And now for something completely different: an unexpected curveball in the form of a vermouth. A light hint of strawberry keeps the nose from being a strictly floral (chamomile, juniper, rose) affair. The fruit influence gains a bit of real estate on the palate, with light traces of cinnamon peaches and mildly bitter grapefruit cutting through the botanicals onto a long finish. A nice summer patio sipper that is going to work wonders in a cocktail. A- / $16
2018 El Capricho Aguará Tannat – This one could benefit from a bit of time in glass, at least half an hour, before sorting itself out for drinking. Blackberry and oak on the nose deliver a teaser of what’s found on the palate, with savory notes of Earl Grey, mocha, and roasted plum delivering intrigue on a finish that is soft on tannins and big on robust complexity. B+ / $55
2022 Familia Traversa Sauvignon Blanc – Bright notes of peach along with lemon and gooseberry temper the mildly herbaceous notes found on the nose, but all of these elements play together nicely as they approach a well-rounded finish free of anything untoward. Nice acidity and some salinity too, but the short finish is a minor shortcoming. Still quite the bottle for this price point, and it will not last long surrounded by the right crowd. B+ / $12
2022 Establecimiento Juanicó Don Pascual Coastal White – A blend of Albariño, Chardonnay and Verdejo. A bit on the sweet side, with green apple and pear aromas that simmer down with a bit of rest in the glass. The palate’s acidity is a bit punchy, but the ample note of peach, lemon zest, and the faintest touch of salinity keep things engaging. B+ / $15
2020 Viña Progreso Overground Cabernet Franc – A lovely balance of strawberry preserves and blackberry on the nose, with light hints of leather and garden herbs on the palate. A decent amount of acidity is accompanied by grippy tannins that hold the fruit influence through a long and lively finish. Steady and straight up in its delivery, it holds its own against Cabernet Francs from the most venerable of wine countries. B+ / $13
2018 Antigua Bodega Prima Donna Tannat– Big notes of red raspberry compote and cocoa powder run throughout, with a welcome layer of baking spice entering the conversation on the palate. A crème brulee note makes a brief cameo towards the finish, but the cocoa and raspberry from the nose regain momentum and carry this through to a lively conclusion. B / $23
2021 Cerro Chapeu Castel Pujol Folklore Blanco– A blend of 80% Malvasía and 20% Trebbiano, with strong notes of apricot and peach presenting throughout alongside a touch of minerality and lemon zest, which add welcome complexity on the palate. The lemon zest sustains as the dominant note, but the minerality becomes more pronounced on the rather lengthy finish. B / $20
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