I was sent a copy of Wines of South America: The Essential Guide by Evan Goldstein. He’s not only a Master Sommelier but also President and Chief Education Officer of Full Circle Wine Solutions. I can vouch for his abilities as an educator after peppering him with questions regarding the state of the South American wine industry, his thoughts on Malbec in Argentina and Carmenere in Chile, and news of a surprising upstart in sparkling wine: Brazil. You can find Goldstein’s thoughts concerning these topics on Grape Collective.
Speaking of surprising, not only are they making wine in Uruguay, but also doing so most notably with an obscure grape best known in Southwest France’s Madiran region: Tannat. I asked Goldstein to explain how this unlikely duo creates notable wines:
JF: When you think about a signature grape for a country, Tannat is probably one of the least likely candidates. Why is Uruguay proving to be such a successful spot for this little-known grape?
EG: It’s a peculiarity that Tannat has found such happiness in Uruguay. But three of the four countries (less Brazil that really doesn’t have one) have signature grapes that, in my opinion, are better as expats than they ever have been in their native homelands. Ironic.
The efforts made to find supremacy with Carmènere in Chile are mirrored by the same effort made to make Uruguayan Tannat so special—again control of yields, best selections/clones, usage of support grapes, climate needs better understood, the role of correct timing of leaf plucking, accepted–and indeed, encouraged–amounts of shriveling/desiccation, and new in-winery practices (including choice use of cold soaking rather than micro-oxygenation).
The confluence here, with a little fairy dust from above I am sure, has made this county such a choice locale for the grape though you do find it as well in Brazil and, to lesser degrees, other spots.