High/Low: Uruguayan Flagship Reds

The next up and coming wine region? Uruguay. You read it here first (or maybe “again”), and this month’s High/Low feature highlights the flagship wines from two of Uruguay’s major — and two of the Private Wineaux’s favorite — producers.

Uruguay lies in the southern hemisphere between the 30th and 35th parallels; a situation it shares with the better-known South American wine producing regions in Chile and Argentina (as well as South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand). On the eastern coast of South America and with its southernmost regions caressed by the Río de la Plata, Uruguay’s warm climate is moderated by Atlantic Ocean breezes and cool currents from the Antarctic. It’s a climate that has proven perfect for the national grape: Tannat.

Tannat, the signature grape of Madiran and Irouleguy in Southwest France, was first planted in Uruguay in 1870 by Pascal Harriague, a Basque settler. It makes deeply-colored, highly-aromatic red wines with full body and significant structure: Tannat and “tannin” share the same root for a reason. In France, it can yield some seriously monstrous wines that require years of cellar time to tame (your Private Wineaux was advised to leave a 1997 Madiran alone until at least 2017). In Uruguay, Tannat wines are a bit more approachable in youth, but just as rustic and sturdy as their French cousins.

Pisano ArretXea, Bouza Monte Vide Eu

You can experience Uruguayan Tannat as the base of a Uruguayan flagship red. Our “High” offering is the highly-regarded Monte Vide Eu from Bodega Bouza. In this blend of Tannat, Merlot, and Tempranillo, the national grape leads, but all play a role. It’s a thick, blackish purple wine in the glass with a nose of tobacco, vanilla, charcoal, and plum that gets more complex over time. The nose is echoed on the palate with a dark chocolate tarry element on the finish, and the tannins are like crushed velvet. Bouza makes MVE approachable on release, but it can easily take a decade of cellaring. Average price: $60-70. And somewhat difficult to find.

Our “Low” offering, Pisano‘s ArretXea is an excellent introduction to Uruguay. This blend of Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot also sits darkly in the glass and throws a complex nose of black fruit, plums, and vanilla. A brooding blend of black edibles and blackberry creme rule the palate, finishing with black coffee and tobacco. A firm tannic structure is present throughout. This is a particular value at $20-30.

Either of these wines, like most Uruguayan reds, make a perfect accompaniment to Uruguay’s meat-driven cuisine. A beef asado barbeque (or any charcoal-grilled meat) would be a natural pairing as would a roast suckling pig, or any wild game. Your Private Wineaux has enjoyed this style alongside a grilled ham steak with orange peach marmalade sauce and with a humble beef stew.

100% Tannat wines are made by Bouza, Pisano, and pretty much all Uruguayan wine producers. Your Private Wineaux recommends seeking them out to familiarize yourself with the grape on its own. Now that you’re in on the secret, spread it around.

They’ll make more.

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