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Uruguay wines beyond Tannat

From Albariño and Viognier to Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc, there’s far more to the Uruguayan wine scene than its signature red grape. Amanda Barnes finds out more from the country’s foremost wine innovators and picks 20 very diverse, must-try wines.

Tannat is undeniably the champion of Uruguay. Its hardy character and unbreakable personality performs well vintage after vintage and, as a result, Tannat is Uruguay’s most planted variety – accounting for more than one in four vines. But Tannat is not the only card up this small nation’s sleeve.

Uruguay is actually home to a host of different varieties, spanning the vinous alphabet from Arneis to Zinfandel. And the huge range of wines to be found in Uruguay are all part of its heritage, while also being key to its innovative present and future.

Scroll down for scores and tasting notes for the top 20 Uruguay wines beyond Tannat

Vines came to Uruguay, like the rest of the New World, in the hands of European immigrants, with the greatest influx occurring from the 1850s onwards. ‘We are all children of immigrants – from Italy, Spain and France, and each of them brought over vines on the boat,’ explains fifth- generation vigneron Gabriel Pisano, who makes Sangiovese at Viña Progreso as an ode to his Italian forefathers. ‘We also never had any regulations controlling what you plant.’

Although there was a rather large, government- driven vine pull in the 1990s that encouraged producers to pull out their hybrids and focus on Tannat, families maintained their identity through other heritage varieties. ‘My family were all from Piedmont, like many of the Italians in Uruguay, and actually Barbera, Nebbiolo and Moscato arrived before Tannat,’ explains winemaker Pablo Fallabrino, who also produces Arneis, with Fresa and Cortese coming soon.

Uruguay: the facts

Area planted (total): 5,991ha
Vineyards: 1,213
Wineries: >160
Annual production: <1.33 million bottles
Top 10 varieties: Tannat (1,610ha); Moscatel de Hamburgo (1,107ha); Merlot (651ha); Ugni Blanc (629ha); Cabernet Sauvignon (363ha); Cabernet Franc (237ha); Marselan (184ha); Sauvignon Blanc (127ha); Chardonnay (108ha); Albariño (69ha)

Source: INAVI, 2018

Amanda Barnes’ top 20 Uruguay wines beyond Tannat

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