A tasty introduction to Uruguay

Unless you’re a serious geography nerd or have friends or family there, chances are you’d have to look closely to find Uruguay on a map.

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And pronouncing it in Spanish? Not “Your-uh-gway” but “Ooo-doo-why,” and that doesn’t just roll off most English-speakers’ tongues.

But Uruguay is definitely a place that wine lovers ought to get to know. Bodega Garzón, makers of today’s featured wine, says it loud and proud:

Uruguay stands as one of the most prominent countries in the Latin American winegrowing world. Its location – on the same latitude as Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand – and its temperate climate favor growing grapevines throughout its territory.

But we’ve still got to find it. One of the smallest countries in South America (about the size of Washington State), Uruguay is shaped appetizingly like a slice of pizza, its point tucked neatly between much larger Brazil on the north and Argentina on the south. Its capital, Montevideo, lies not far across the Rio de la Plata from Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires.

The size of Washington State, Uruguay is tucked neatly between much larger Brazil on the north and Argentina on the south.

The size of Washington State, Uruguay is tucked neatly between much larger Brazil on the north and Argentina on the south.

The World Bank, which probably ought to know, tells us that “Uruguay stands out in Latin America for being an egalitarian society and for its high income per capita, low level of inequality and poverty and the almost complete absence of extreme poverty.” In relative terms, the world Bank says, Uruguay’s middle class is the largest in the Americas, representing more than 60% of its population.”

In short, Uruguay is a stable democratic republic with a strong economy, and, by all accounts, a good place to live, work, and play. And, returning to today’s topic, a very good place to enjoy the country’s wine. It’s the fourth-largest wine producer in South America, following Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. In contrast with Argentina’s pride in Malbec and Chile’s love for Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere, Uruguay has made the less familiar Tannat grape its own.

A migrant from Basque country in the French and Spanish Pyrennees, Tannat grapes are almost black, making red wines that lean toward deep, dark, dry and rustic.

The first three of those descriptions certainly apply to Bodega Garzón 2020 Tannat Reserva. I might quibble with “rustic,” though, as there’s a certain broad-shouldered elegance to this big yet stylish Uruguyan red wine from Maldonaldo, a coastal province whose distinct four-season climate and exposure to cool Atlantic breezes invites comparison to coastal France.

Bodega Garzón's vineyards spread across coastal hills in Uruguay's Maldonaldo province. Photo from ©Bodega Garzón

Bodega Garzón’s vineyards spread across coastal hills in Uruguay’s Maldonaldo province. Photo from ©Bodega Garzón

“The thorough, evolving nature of our winemakers has left a mark on this highly traditional, deep-rooted activity in the country,” declares Bodega Garzón’s web page. “Wineries have perfected the craft from generation to generation, expanding the first vineyards developed by Europeans to a culture identified with the region and with which the region feels identified.

“Each glass of Uruguayan wine encompasses centuries of history, secrets and transformation, and wine has become part of the country’s mystique, tradition and economy.”

Uruguayan Tannat is worth a try, and I can recommend Bodega Garzón’s version without reservation. If you try it, I think you’ll like it.


Today’s Tasting Report

Bodega Garzón 2020 Uruguay Tannat Reserva ($17.99)

Bodega Garzón Tannat Reserva

Bodega Garzón Tannat Reserva is a dark purple wine, almost black in the glass, shading only slightly to a thin garnet edge. A luscious scent of ripe, juicy blackberries show up first in the aroma, backed by a more subtle hint of kirsch, black-cherry liqueur. It’s full-bodied and acidic on the palate, with a delicious flavor reminiscent of fresh blackberry juice but without sweetness. Hints of granite minerality lurk in the background. Tannat’s fabled tannic astringency is certainly present, but the wine’s bold but balanced fruit keeps it in check; its time in French oak and its 14% alcohol also stay politely out of the flavor’s way. U.S. importer: Pacific Highway Wines & Spirits, American Canyon, Calif. (Sept. 21, 2023)

FOOD MATCH: Beef and venison would be traditional with this big, tannic red; more specific recommendations might include piperrada (spicy Basque ratatouille), spiced beef sausages, and lamb skewers like the Greek souvlaki. We made a simple match with a plant-based pasta made for a tannic red: Spaghetti with roasted mushrooms in a garlicky garden-tomato sauce.

WHEN TO DRINK: It’s fine now, but assuming good cellar conditions it should be good for five years or more.

It’s a good value at Wine-Searcher.com’s $19 average U.S. retail, and you may find it for a few dollars less in some markets.

Read about Bodega Garzón on the winery page in English, where you’ll find information about the producer and links to their many specific wines.

Check prices and find vendors for Garzón Tannat Reserva on Wine-Searcher.com.

Follow this Wine-Searcher link to read more about Bodegas Garzón and browse vendors for its wines.

Click here to read Wine-Searcher’s report on Uruguay and its wines.

Learn more about the Tannat grape and find listings and vendors for Tannat wines at this Wine-Searcher link.


Wine Focus September 2023 –
Benchmarks of Syrah

Our Wine Focus for September turns to Syrah. Northern Rhone, anyone? Hermitage? Côte-Rôtie? Maybe the “humble” St Joseph or Crozes-Hermitage?

Syrah is one of those grapes that gets relatively little respect, yet produces some stunning wines. As with everything, it can be misused, and it can produce some pretty scary wines as well. The Shiraz boom of the late 1990s may very well have permanently tainted one of the most noble grapes in the entire world of wine.

But let’s rehabilitate Syrah! Find a bottle that you like, taste it, and join us in the WineLovers Discussion Group as we talk about Syrah this month.


Find the wines you want

Explore Wine-Searcher

Wine-Searcher.com is the place to go online if you want to find where to buy a particular wine that interests you. What’s more, Wine-Searcher.com offers so much more. It’s well worth a visit just to discover its many features, including its popular list of the world’s Top 10 Best Value Wines.


Good wines we’ve tried under $10.99!

Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10.99 or less that I’ve told you about in recent years. In some cases the prices may have risen over the $10.99 mark since I reviewed them, but they should still be excellent bargains. Please tell us about your favorites!


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