While Chile and Argentina have been known as wine producers for some time, Uruguay has been busy in recent years in a spectacular effort to overtake them.
Uruguay is relatively small as a country in comparison with its two giant neighbours Brazil and Argentina. Despite this the country has a rich history of wine production. Vines were introduced by the Conquistadors in the sixteenth century and wine-making was in the hands of the Monks for a considerable period of time.
Uruguay wine production got a major boost when thousands of immigrants settled from France, Algeria, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. These brought the noble grapevine Vitis vinifera with them. A leading role was played by the French Basque Pascal Harriague who introduced Tannat and Folie Noire to Uruguay in 1870. Tannat is wellknown from South-West France, especially in Madiran where it makes superb wines for laying down from people like Alain Brumon. Meanwhile Tannat has become the flagship of the Uruguayan wine industry.
Other Vitis vinifera varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, and Gamay, Spanish varieties such as Bobal, and Garnacha and Italian vines like Barbera and Nebbiolo were planted in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. None of these grapes though managed to achieve the popularity or quality of Tannat.
There are nine producing zones in Uruguay: Norte, Litoral Norte, Noreste, Literal Sur, Centro, Centro Oriental, Suroeste, Sur, and Sureste but most wine is produced in the south of the country around the capital Montevideo.
The climate is moderate with sufficient rain to make irrigation unnecessary. The difference between day and night time temperatures is considerable in the north of the country. The soil varies between loose clay in the south through loose and fertile sediments in the south-east, sand and gravel in the centre, firm clay in the north-east, and gravel in the north.
White wines are overwhelmingly in the majority in Uruguay and they are not of the best quality. The best of them come from Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Gewilrtztraminer, and Viognier and are fresh, powerful, and very aromatic.
The red wine from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Nebbiolo, and Barbara are carefully made and concentrated with bouquets of ripe fruit. Despite this Tannat is the more convincing wine. It is full-bodied and deep, very concentrated with firm but not harsh tannin and possesses heady aromas of ripe fruit and spices with a rich, powerful, and rounded masculine taste. It is certainly a wine that can be kept and is ideal with roasted and grilled meat. Drinking temperature is 60-64°F (16-18°C).