“Todo se transforma”
Uruguay is one of the most exciting, up-and-coming wine-producing countries in the world right now. That’s my conclusion after spending a week touring its regions in January this year. It may be the second smallest nation in Latin America, but it’s definitely punching above its weight.
My first-ever Uruguay report looks back on what’s happened in the two decades since I last went there in 1999 and is a record of just how much things have changed. As the Uruguayan musician Jorge Drexler puts it in one of his most famous songs, “Todo Se Transforma”.
Uruguay has a tradition of winemaking that stretches back to the second half of the 19th century and quite possibly before that, but in many ways, it is a young presence on the world scene. Some good wines were made in the 1970s and 1980s – I’ve been lucky enough to taste some of them – but world-class ones are much more recent. Uruguay is making the best wines in its history. What’s more, there are surely even better things to come.
Uruguay is best known for Tannat, a grape that was imported from Argentina of all places by a ex-pat French Basque back in 1871, but as I found out on my visit, its wines are much more diverse than people appreciate. Albariño in particular, the famous white grape of Galicia, has a fantastic future close to the Atlantic Ocean. And some of the red blends are spectacular.
The 226 wines I tasted for this report were all sampled during my weeklong visit to Uruguay. As ever, I believe there is no substitute for tasting in situ. For me, it’s also vital to see the vineyards and talk to the people who made the wines, rather than plough through a series of samples in a hotel room. If terroir means anything, then I want to understand it.
While I obviously haven’t tasted every wine from the country’s 211 producers, this report focuses on the 146 brands that scored 90 points or more, as well as providing analysis, insight and opinion. It is, if you like, an informed outsider’s take on the Uruguayan wine scene and, I believe, the most comprehensive overview of the subject in English.
Tim Atkin MW