Tasting T3.9 Uruguay

The Southern American wine industry is dominated by Argentina with 45% of production and Chile with 36%. Brazil manages 13% and Uruguay whilst being the fourth largest wine producer in South America contributes just 4%, hence it is largely unknown by most people.

Whilst geographically between Argentina and Brazil and linked to those cultural giants by both tango and carnival. The wines of Uruguay owe more to a European style shaped by its mild Atlantic climate. The other South American wine countries, however, find their influences in the subtropical, pacific and continental climates they enjoy.

Uruguay has therefore been described as an ‘old world’ climate in the ‘new world’. This is quite beneficial as it is always good for countries and wine areas to develop. Showing a sense of place and style that is unique to them and can be readily identified by the wine enthusiast.

Kim and I visited Uruguay twice back in 2015 and 2016. We sailed first into Punta del Este, known as the Saint-Tropez of South America. A vibrant, avant-garde, cosmopolitan city boasting elegance and glamour with its yachts and celebrities. It is famous for its rather unusual beach statue the fingers of Punta del Este, and also the unusual hotel down the coastal road, Casa Pueblo, designed and constructed by Uruguayan artist Carlos Paez Vilaro. In 2014 Punte del Este hosted the third race in the inaugural season of Formula E.

Punte del Este is located in the wine region of Maldonado.

Later we sailed into Montevideo, famous as the site of the scuttling of the Admiral Graf Spee after the battle of the River Plate on December 13th 1939. Nice small museum. Just to the north of the city is the wine area of Canelones, named after a species of Cinnamon not a type of pasta. 

Maldonado is the heart of the cooler coastal area, here Albarino is emerging as the queen.

Albarino (from Galicia, Spain) is currently a rising star in Uruguay and has more recently begun to receive international attention. It was first planted by the Bouza family in their Canelones vineyard in the early 2000’s. Such was its success they planted more along the coast in Pan de Azucar, an area within Maldonado. Other coastal producers followed and Albarino became one of the fastest growing varieties in Uruguay. Their wines have a lovely mineral expression, are precise and well defined.

Canelones (and Montevideo) represent the heart of Uruguay’s wine industry and here Tannat is king.

Tannat (historically from the south west of France) has for many years been the principle (roughly 25% of all grapes planted in Uruguay) red grape variety. More Tannat is grown in Uruguay than anywhere else in the world. In France it is quite tannic with thick skins and is often blended with other grapes to soften the astringency and make it a little more approachable. However, in Uruguay the wines are a bit lighter and lower in tannin making it more possible to have a single varietal wine. As such Uruguay has taken Tannat as its own, much like Argentina with Malbec and Chile with Carmenere.

Unsurprisingly the wines that we taste today will be from these two grape varieties.

There are a just a few top wineries in Uruguay and today we focus our tasting on three of them.

The wineries are,

Bodega Bouza

Juan and Elisa established their Bodega in 2000 when they restored a historic winery originally built by Numa Pesquera. During our trip Kim and I enjoyed a visit and tour of the winery and classic car museum followed by lunch with a wonderful wine pairing.

Bodega Garzon

Founded by Alejandro and Bettina Bulgheroni who built their world class sustainable winery in Punte del Este.

Familia Deicas

Acquiring the Juanico winery in 1979, Juan Carlos Deicas reoriented the winery to create fine wines. Preludio was born in 1992 and in 1994 they became the first Uruguayan winery to ship their wines to London and the world. Winning medals and awards their new winery was opened in 2000.

Tonight’s wines will be tasted by David, Harry, Kim, Jen and Luke.

Bouza – Albarino 2021

Started as an experiment, this has quickly turned into one of the estate’s most sought after bottlings. 90% fermented in stainless steel, the remaining 10% in French oak barrels. Aged four months over its lees. Unfiltered and unfined.

Nose: Pale straw colour on first viewing. Grass, citrus, apples, mango and grapefruit. A real whirlwind of fruity notes. Very impressive Albarino in all honesty. Limes definitely coming through towards the end as well.

Palate: Grapefruit immediately on the palate, unexpected in a way as was not on the nose at all. Limes are very present and floral notes as well. Very slight exotic fruit but only hints on the backdrop. A medium – full bodied wine, again unexpected with Albarino, moderate acidity with a short – medium length finish. I would drink within 4 years. Lovely vibrant start!

Garzon –  Single Vineyard Albarino 2019

Sourced from a plot where the ocean breeze enhances the minerality and natural acidity of the grape. Hand harvested then 80% fermented in cement tanks and 20% aged for 3 to 6 months on the lees in untoasted French oak barrels.

Nose: Yellow with hints of gold colour on first viewing. Honey, melon, mango, peaches and nectarines. So exotic and different, absolutely lovely. Showing good bottle age on the nose as well.

Palate: All of the above fruit are showing very well on the palate, good structure and very well balanced. A little smoky, this is not a normal Albarino but it is fantastic. I must admit I thought this wine was simply outstanding, however everyone else thought it was merely a very good, nice wine. Mainly because this is not what Albarino is normally like, one of the reasons why I loved it in fact is because it is so different.

Bouza –  Tannat B6 2019

100% Tannat coming from the B6 parcel of the Las Violetas vineyard within Canelones. Hand harvested and selected, aged in French and American Oak for sixteen months.

Nose: Deep red on first viewing. Dark plums, blackberries, leather and black cherries. This nose is deep and intense. Extremely brooding and very dark fruit coming to the fore.

Palate: Blackberries and dark plums immediately coming through. Chocolate and leather following on, a really lovely, balanced wine. Light bodied and delicious. Low acidity with moderate to full tannins, however they are well integrated at the moment. A medium length finish as well. This was really lovely. A crowd pleaser all round the table.

Deicas – Domaine Castelar 2016

100% Tannat from a single vineyard in the Progreso sub region, 25% barrel aged.

Nose: Medium – deep red colour on first viewing. Stewed fruits, prunes, chocolate. Extremely intense nose. This is a very powerful wine on the nose.

Palate: Power exploding onto the palate as well. Extremely intense notes of stewed fruits, chocolate and liquorice. Tannins are very well integrated, the wine became much smoother to drink over time. Medium – full bodied wine with high acidity, moderate to full tannin and a full finish. I would suggest that this is left for a couple more years at least. I know the tertiary characteristics are already very present but with the acidity and tannin both being moderate to high this still has some way to go.

Bouza – Monte Vide Eu 2018

The name of this wine represents the two popular thoughts of how Montevideo got its name. Sailors passing down the Rio de Plata would say ‘monte vide eu’ which translates from Portuguese as ‘I saw a hill’. Alternatively, Spaniards recorded the location of the mountain as ‘Monte Vi de Este a Oeste’ meaning ‘the sixth mountain from east to west’. Who knows, but I prefer the first option.

55% Tannat / 27% Merlot / 18% Tempranillo

Nose: Deep red colour on first viewing. Aromas of cardamom, blackberries, cherries and leather. A great intense nose with the cardamom really coming through.

Palate: Beautiful notes of cherries, kirsch and chocolate. The cardamom is more intense on the nose than the palate but is showing subtly. I was extremely impressed with this, a fantastic wine. Medium – full bodied with high acidity, moderate tannins (very well integrated as well). A medium length finish making this wine sing perfectly. Everyone was very impressed, an extraordinary wine!

Garzon – Balasto 2017

This wine gets its name from the ‘ballast’ soil (decomposed granite rock) the vines are grown in. It is aged for 20 months in 25 and 50hl untoasted French Oak barrels.

45% Tannat / 25% Cabernet Franc / 20% Petit Verdot / 10% Marselan

Nose: Medium red colour on first viewing. Black cherries and plums at first, moving through to cardamom and ripe stalks. Perhaps a little closed at first? Opened up plenty after 4 hours and decanting.

Palate: Sour cherries straight off the bat, but honestly struggling afterwards. Definitely notes of chocolate but difficult to get any definitive notes or hints. Medium bodied with low acidity. Full tannins and a short finish. This wine was very good I just think it needs more time to age. Perhaps we opened too early? Perhaps it just needed a good few more hours… we were unsure. Definitely one to try again in 3-4 years’ time!


A very different tasting for us, Uruguayan wines are not something we drink many of at all so for us this was a real eye opener. There are some incredible wines coming out of Uruguay and a couple of the ones we tasted here are testament to that. I would like to give a particular shout out to the Albarino’s that we tasted which I think can easily go up against Albarino’s from Spain. Possibly even be better…

The scores:

Bouza Albarino 2021 – 88 Points

Garzon SV Albarino 2019 – 88 Points

Tannat B6 2019 – 93 Points

Domaine Castelar 2016 – 92 Points

Monte Vide Eu 2018 – 95 Points

Ballasto 2017 – 90 Points

Considering I raved about the Monte Vide Eu I am sure no one is surprised to see that it won hands down out of the reds. I would also like to add that these scores are all averages from all of us who did the tasting. Therefore I personally do not agree with the scores for the Albarino’s I personally found both of them to be at 90 points each as they were both very good for very different reasons. I would definitely suggest purchasing them!

Thank you for taking the time to read again this week!

David & Harry  

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