Uruguay is a fascinating nation that overachieves on so many levels, its burgeoning wine industry being a perfect illustration of this.
The modern-day Uruguayan wine industry was really established (albeit at a small scale) with the arrival of Tannat in the late 1800s at the hands of Basque immigrant Pascal Harriague. Yet it wasn’t really until the 1980s that the real drive for quality, as well as innovation, really revved up.
At the very heart of this quest for quality was the Deicas Family, spearheaded by the pioneering spirit and passion of Juan Carlos Deicas. It was in 1979 that he purchased and founded Establecimiento Juanicó to begin his journey. The vision was clear from the project’s inception, and he started by introducing revolutionary research and ideas to the country. Key to this was innovation in the vineyard; major research on soil profiles was transformative, helping to identify significant similarities to some of the world’s best wine regions, namely Bordeaux.
Multiple and long travels, to France and Italy in particular, represented an extensive period of research, inspiration and discovery for Fernando, Juan Carlos’ son. This led to the introduction of many noble French varieties to the vineyards. As well as this, significant partnerships with other producers in New World countries, including the USA, Australia, Chile and Argentina, were established.
The 1992 vintage saw the first incarnation of Preludio, arguably the most important wine in the evolution of Uruguay’s fledgling wine industry. This iconic Uruguayan red made history in 1997, when it was voted as the best wine for laying down at the Italian wine fair Vinitaly. This was the first time that any wine outside of France or Italy won the coveted title. The 1992 vintage has become somewhat legendary, reaching prices of over US$1,500 in restaurants in Uruguay!
Preludio (Barrel select) is a blend made from a selection of the finest wines from each harvest, aged in barrel. Typically the blend will consist of Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot – occasionally, since 2002, with a splash of Marselan. Every 6 months the wines are tasted to evaluate their quality, with only the best barrels destined for the final cut, which takes place 2.5 years after harvest.
The family make blending trials and choose their top three from the results. Friends and family as well as a select group of Preludio enthusiasts are invited to a dinner where they are presented with the options, and the final blend is finally decided upon. Preludio is only made in the finest vintages, deemed of high enough quality and showing excellent ageing potential.
2022 marks the 30th anniversary of this special wine, something that the Deicas family are rightly extremely proud of. Preludio has often been used as a gift from the President of Uruguay to other global dignitaries, most recently to the President of Argentina in 2021.
A series of events is planned for later in the year, replicating the ‘final blend dinner’ in various cities around the world, a deserved celebration and recognition for this unique Uruguayan gem.