Marichal Uruguay Gran Reserve A Tannat 2011
Considered one of the most environmentally sustainable countries in the world, Uruguay is also the fourth largest wine producing country in South America. But in contrast to its neighbors (Chile, Argentina and even Brazil) Uruguay keeps more in step with its European progenitors where land small holdings are most common. Most Uruguayan farms are tiny (averaging only about five hectares) and family-run, many dating back multiple generations. At this size, growers either make small amounts of wine for local consumption or sell grapes to a nearby winery. In all of Uruguay there are close to 3,500 growers but fewer than 300 wineries.
On these small plots of land, manual tending and harvesting, as well as low yields are favored; this small agricultural country has never had a need for large-scale chemical fertilizers or insecticides. Their thriving meat industry also follows the same standards: hormones have been banned since 1968 and today all Uruguayan beef is organic and grass-fed.
Uruguay’s best vineyards are on the Atlantic coast, in Canelones and Maldonado (where cooling breezes lessen humidity) or found hugging its border with Argentina. With a climate similar to Bordeaux and soils clay-rich and calcareous, Uruguay is perfect for Tannat, a thick-skinned, red variety native to Southwest, France. A great Tannat from Uruguay will have no lack of rich red and black fruit, lots of sweet spice and a hefty structure. Sometimes winemakers blend Merlot or Pinot noir with Tannat to soften up its rough edges.
Named for its naturally high level of tannins, Tannat is a brooding, rustic, dark red wine that sees its origin in the Madiran region of France. Similar to Malbec’s journey to Argentina from France, Tannat made a similar move in the early 19th century but landed in Uruguay in the hands of Basque settlers. Today Tannat thrives in its warm South American climate, producing a bold, black fruit driven red. Somm Secret—Uruguay producers have the freedom to blend firm Tannat with any other grape whereas Madiran law restricts Tannat’s blending grapes to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and the indigenous grape, Fer.