During our visit to Uruguay, we discovered their most predominant grape varietal, Tannat. Originally brought over from France during the 19th Century, it has since flourished in the soil and climate of the area.
The 09 Gimenez Mendez Reserva that we tasted was almost black in color with bold tannins and very little bright fruit characteristics. It was great with the creaminess of the herbed goat cheese and the nutty flavors of the semi hard cow’s milk cheese we ate along with the wine.
While Tannat is the most widely produced wine in Uruguay, wineries also grow other Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The 08 Varela Zarranz Cabernet Sauvignon that we tasted exhibited some dark cherry and cola notes, but was definitely softer in nature than California or European Cabs. It was a simple wine that didn’t require too much thought.
Of all the wines we tried from Uruguay though, we liked the 07 Cata Mayor Tannat-Cabernet Franc best. The acidity and spice of the Cabernet Franc complimented the flavors of the Tannat and the bottle age softened the tannins to bring out more of the aromas and dark berry fruit characteristics.
While not the best wines we’ve tasted in South America, the Uruguayan bottles we tried were interesting, easy to drink, not too complex, and food friendly. Considering Uruguay is one of the largest consumers of beef per capita, these wines tasted particularly delicious with choice cuts of home-grown red meat.