Uruguay and Tannat Have a Wonderful Relationship

Posted in Uncategorized by EVWG on the April 25th, 2007


I would like to take a break for a moment from the Cali wines and talk about a bottle that was given to me recently as a gift. I will say up front that this wine is over twenty bucks. But I just have to talk about it. And it is worth every penny. This wine is from an area of the world I have never tried so it was pretty exciting for me. The area of the world I am speaking of is Uruguay. Everyone these days knows about Argentina’s malbec, which actually came from the Cahors region of France where it is known as auxerrois as well as the Loire Valley where it is known as cot. And we are becoming very well acquainted with Chile’s carmenere grape which also from France (from the Bordeaux region) as well as their cabernet sauvignon (interestingly enough, carmenere is related to cabernet sauvignon so it kind of makes sense why they both are doing so well there). But there is another grape from France doing very well in Uruguay, tannat. Tannat comes from the Madiran region in southwest France. It made its way to Uruguay in the 1800’s and has been the wine that the Gaucho (cowboys) drink with their steaks for decades. I am still researching the history of Uruguay’s viticulture practices and will be trying more very soon but for now, let me get to talkin’ about this here vino.
The wine is a 2002, unfiltered one hundred percent tannat made from sixty, eighty and one hundred year old vines. It is a “gold reserve” and the producers name; I believe is Los Cerros De San Juan. The name of the wine is “Torrens” and my friend picked it up at Astor Wine for thirty bucks. Not too bad. That’s only ten extra bones. This is one of those wines that, as a wine geek, you just can’t wait to open. It’s like walking home with your new iPod or computer, rushing to charge it up and start playing. I was at work setting up the restaurant when Esteban dropped by with the bottle. When I found out where it was from and that it was tannat I was ready to open my resources and get online and do some intense research then pop the bottle with friends, take out my note pad and have at it. Alas, It was at the beginning of my shift and there was no time to even consider opening the wine and thinking about it. So I put it on the shelf and there it sat all night just staring at me waiting patiently to be approached. Hell, it had been in the bottle since 2002 what was another couple of hours. Uruguay map
Finally it was time. The night came to a close and we were doing the numbers. This is the time of night when we usually taste the wines that are talked about in this blog. We popped the bottle and saw that the cork was ink-stained black. Good sign. This was going to be a deep one. The initial taste was poured and I watched as everyone marveled over the way the wine coated the glass. It was like a dark, transparent film that slid slowly down the walls. In other words this tannat had great color. We swirled and let the air do its thing getting ready for the first taste. The nose came at me strong with a distinct barnyard aroma that was pleasant and not sulfuric. I could tell there was some nice dark fruit in there somewhere but it was still a bit sleepy giving the stage to this wonderful briny, ocean spray aroma. There was a green-ness to it on the nose and I wonder if this coupled with the ocean spray is an indication of high acidity. I will have to consult Dr. Vino on that one.
The initial palate of this wine was quite impressive. It is a big wine with a hefty tannin structure yet keeping in mind that it is unfiltered, this wine achieve a really nice balance. You can tell it is rustic right away with the tannins hitting you first but then after that they blend into the rest of the wine. There was a lot going on in the glass so I decided to throw the rest into a decanter to watch it evolve as we sipped away. The decanter allowed the tannins to soften a bit and give way to the acidity. I think that is what it was: the acidity. I feel like I am rambling here so let me get to the point. I loved this wine. It has muscle and depth and concentration. It is rustic without being overwhelmingly so. It has an acidity to it that cuts through all aforementioned characteristics that provides the backbone and keeps everything in check. And for an unfiltered wine to have that balance is very refreshing. Also, the age of the vines used shone through in the fruit concentration. I read that Uruguay has a nice soil complex of clay and sand. I am no expert but what that tells my weak scientific mind is that the clay allows for natural drainage while the sand holds the soils nutrients allowing better control in the plants food distribution. And even though it is a moist, subtropical climate coastal breezes promote nice ventilation further controlling the ripening. And after forty or so years a vine begins to produce less fruit which means more concentration of flavor. I will have to talk to Dr. Vino about that as well.
I ordered a skirt steak from the kitchen and I was in Shangri-la. I highly recommend splurging a bit on this one. It’s an age worthy wine that can hang out in your “wine cellar” for a couple more years or just have around for that special occasion when you have friends over for dinner. Definitely eat with this wine, especially steak, and if you don’t eat meat cook up some hearty vegetable dish or grill up some portabellas with a nice dollop of blue cheese on top. Thank you Esteban for the excellent wine and I look forward to trying many more of the wines from Uruguay. I will definitely be putting a couple in the shop to expose an amazing and internationally burgeoning wine region of the world. Cheers!

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