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The quest for an iconic Albariño from Uruguay

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The Deicas family champions the holy grail for Uruguayan white wines

Uruguay has proved itself as the most exciting Albariño producer outside of Galicia, Spain. Even though its history with the variety is relatively short, today Albariño has become an emblem of Uruguay and its coastal terrain.

The Deicas family, in particular, sees Albariño as the holy grail for Uruguayan white wines. Third-generation winemaker Santiago Deicas has made it his mission to hone its world class potential.

‘Around 10 years ago I really started to believe in the great potential Uruguay had for Albariño,’ explains Deicas, who studied the variety both in Galicia and in different regions of his native Uruguay. ‘We planted Albariño in two of our vineyards but I also bought grapes from other growers for a greater understanding of it.’

The first result of this investigation materialised in ‘Don Pascual Coastal White’, a saline, fresh and aromatic blend of Albariño and Chardonnay with a touch of Pinot Grigio. The wine helped revitalise an exciting category of coastal white blends in Uruguay.

Particularities of the parcel

It wasn’t until the 2020 vintage though, that Deicas’ investigations came to full fruition, with their own vineyard fruit coming to the fore — notably with a parcel of vines in the Garzón region of Maldonado.

‘When tasting the grapes in the vineyard I noticed immediately that there was something really special about them,’ recalls Deicas. ‘They had an incredibly low pH — of 2.95. This is the sort of pH we normally expect for sparkling wines!’

After spontaneous fermentation (using native yeasts only) in Burgundian oak barrels and extended ageing on the lees, Deicas expected the wine to be ready, as his Albariños from elsewhere in Uruguay would be. Yet, this parcel of grapes clearly demanded a different approach. ‘The wine was still incredibly marked by the oak — I therefore left it much longer in the barrel, 15 months in total. And the same happened after bottling… it actually took another year in bottle for it to start showing its full potential.’

Full potential revealed

The true colours of this wine, according to Deicas, are down to the particularities of the vineyard. ‘This plot has granite soils very close to the sea, which lend it a very austere character, a mineral, saline expression and great ageing potential.’

Now, three years after harvest, Familia Deicas Cru D’Exception is making its debut on the international stage, and has been received with rapturous praise. It came out on top in Decanter’s ‘Albariño beyond Iberia’ tasting earlier this year — no small feat for a wine’s very first vintage. It’s sibling, Familia Deicas Atlántico Sur Albariño, also shone at the same tasting, earning a Highly Recommended (91 points) nod from the judges, in recognition for its fruit expressiveness and aromatic generosity.

It seems the Deicas family have not only struck gold with their new vineyard but, through dedicated investigation and patience, they have also solidified a bonafide cru for Uruguayan Albariño.


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