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The New Era of Uruguayan Wines

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Innovative winemakers in Uruguay are exploring different grape varieties and wine styles across the country's regions.

Uruguay has become a hotbed of innovation, with winemakers exploring deeper into new wine regions and taking chances on an ever-greater diversity of grape varieties that goes far beyond the country’s flagship Tannat. While Albariño has been Uruguay’s rising star of recent years, winemakers are now delving into other salivating white wines to suit the maritime climate.

Bodega Los Cerros de San Juan on the shores of the River Plate in Colonia used to be a lone advocate for Riesling. Today though, it is joined by Bodega Bouza, making racy Riesling on the syenite-rich slopes of Pan de Azúcar; and by Becasina, not far from the wild waves that whip Cabo Polonio, in the emerging region of Rocha. Chardonnay has also taken on a new lease of life with the precision and focus of super premium labels, such as those of Cerro del Toro and Familia Deicas.

Bodega Bouza winery in Uruguay

Bodega Bouza

When it comes to red wines, it is now Cabernet Franc which is the variety on every winemaker’s lips. Viña Progreso, Alto de la Ballena, Bohemia by Fiore and Bodega Garzón in particular are garnering critical acclaim for their fresh Cabernet Franc. Pinot Noir has long been the calling card for the Pisano and Marichal families in the undulating hills of Canelones, but the grape has also taken on new extreme coastal terroir just 400 metres from the Atlantic sea in Maldonado with Compañía Uruguaya de Vinos de Mar.

Others are taking inspiration from champion varieties of the Americas, such as Gimenez Mendez with its focus on Malbec and Artesana’s pioneering of Uruguayan Zinfandel. There has also been a revival of some of the more traditional varieties of Uruguay, with vignerons like Fabiana Bracco’s Bracco Bosca taking the lead with Ugni Blanc, Santiago Deicas’ Fºamilia Diecas championing Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng, and Proyecto Nakkal revitalising Muscat. Pablo Fallabrino is also paving the way for a revival of some of the older Italian varieties in Uruguay, including Barbera and Nebbiolo.

Cerro del Toro winery in Uruguay

Cerro del Toro

Innovation is proliferating in the cellar too. Skin contact orange wines are seeing a renaissance – ranging from the opulence of Bizarra Extravaganza to elegant understated styles by Bodega Oceánica José Ignacio and Proyecto Nakkal. Bracco Bosca is also bringing back the heritage of ‘clarete’, a deeply coloured rose, with an excellent Merlot and Ugni Blanc blend. Meanwhile, treatment of red wines in the cellar, is being revamped with fresher winemaking styles.

Pizzorno has long been a champion of carbonic maceration Tannat, and there are now a dozen wineries joining the movement towards youthful and approachable wines that offer a counterpart to the more traditional styles of ageworthy, oaked red wines. Unoaked Tannat, often aged in amphora or concrete, is one of the fastest growing categories in Uruguay today with wineries ranging from Montes Toscanini to Viña Edén embracing it. Today, more than ever, Uruguay is showing a true rainbow of wine styles, regions and varieties, as it enters a colourful and delicious new era of diversity.

Discover more about Uruguayan wines

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