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story and photos by Anthony Dias Blue what makes somewhat coarse and rustic wines in France, makes charming, fruitforward wines in South America. Montevideo, Uruguays capital, is an amiable city of 1.5 millionhalf the countrys population. The city is surrounded by the waters of the Rio de la Plata on three sides. It has an easy-going, lived-in feel. The people are friendly, generous and fun-loving and restaurants are throbbing with life until well after midnight (most Uruguayans would consider a dinner reservation before 10 p.m. as gauche). Uruguay is not a particularly hospitable destination for vegetarians. In fact, vegetables are not a big part of the local diet. Beef, on the other hand, in the form of asado (sort of a giant mixed grill), is most of the diet. The average Uruguayan consumes over 150 pounds of beef annually. Uruguayans also take their wine seriously. The country has been producing wine for more than a century but a new generation, many of whom trained in Mendoza, has updated the technology, streamlined the vineyards and upgraded wine quality. Most wine production is located north of Montevideo in the department of Canelones. Other vineyards can be found in nearby Colonia, San Jose and Maldonado. Here are Uruguays wineries to watch:
Alvaro Lorenzo and Paula Pivel of Alto de la Ballena.

Out from the

ruguay? Wheres that? Dwarfed by its two South American east coast behemoth neighborsArgentina and Brazilthis tiny country of 3 million people is easy to overlook. But wait just a minute. Its time for the world to notice Uruguay . . . and its terrific wines. Uruguay has been a well-kept secret. Nevertheless, for years its pristine beaches have been the warm weather playground of the well-heeled of Buenos Aires. Its banks have been the refuge for those looking to escape the economic chaos of Argentina. And now, its wines are beginning to attract consumers looking for exciting, modern and reasonably-priced bottlings. Like Argentina, Uruguay was settled by Europeansmainly Spanish and Italian, both people with a strong wine culture. The difference in areas of production between the two is, however, considerable. While most Argentine vineyards are located on the high desert plain east of the Andes, Uruguays vineyards are mostly maritime. Many are within a few miles of the Atlantic Ocean. As a result of this diversity, different grape varieties have come to dominate the respective wine cultures: Malbec in Argentina, Tannat in Uruguay. Both of these varieties come from vineyards in Southwest France, Malbec from Cahors and Tannat from Madiran. In both cases,

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This winery is located on a sprawling property in the Santa Lucia section of Canelones. It is one of the few wineries in Uruguay that produces Sauvignon Gris, a smooth and aromatic white. Filgueira also makes a very impressive Pinot Noir.

Bodega Garzn

Export Director Cristina Santoro and Enologist Eduardo Boida of Bouza.

Export Director Nicolas Kovalenko and Enologist German Bruzzone overlook Garzns impressive 10,000-acre ranch.

Alto de la Ballena

This small operation is the project of Montevideo businessman Alvaro Lorenzo and his wife Paula Pivel who farm a 50-acre site on the rocky slopes of the Sierra de La Ballena, not far from the summer playground of Punta del Este. The vineyards were planted in 2001 and they yield a lovely Syrah as well as a Tannat that is blended with 15% Viognier.

a wide variety of wines including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Petit Manseng, and Pinot Noir. Their most celebrated wine is Tannat Amat which is grown in Cerro Chapeau on the Brazilian border.

This is the most impressive project in Uruguay. Located 45 minutes northwest of Punta del Este in Maldonado, this dramatic 10,000-acre ranch produces exceptional olive oil and has almost 600 acres of vineyards. Owned by the Argentine Bulgheroni family, which also has wineries in Argentina and California, this cutting edge operation has serious ambitions. The wine consultant is famed Italian enologist Alberto Antonini. A state-of-the-art gravity-flow winery is due to be completed in time for the 2013 harvest. The first wines indicate that Garzn is destined to be a star on the world wine stage.

Gimnez Mndez

Castillo Viejo

Bouza Bodega Boutique

This highly-regarded Canelones winery, built in 1942 and acquired by the Bouza family in 2002, has a state-of-theart production facility and estate just 7 miles north of Montevideo. In addition to a winery and vineyards the property features a classic car collection and an excellent restaurant. The wines, made by celebrated enologist Dr. Eduardo Boida include Albario, Tannat, a lovely Merlot and a stunning blend of Tannat, Merlot and Tempranillo.

This winery was founded by the Basque Etchaverry family in 1927. Although the winery has an aged look, the wines, carrying the CataMayor brand, are modern and of very high-quality. Sauvignon Blanc is a specialty as is a lovely blend of Tannat and Tempranillo.

This producer, located in Canelones, owns 250 acres of vineyards. The winery is run by Marta Mndez, who was secretary and then wife to the late founder, Luis A. Gimnez. The winemakers are her two sons Luis and Mauro Gimnez. Gimnez Mndez produces a wide range of quality wines including Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Malbec, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and, of course, Tannat.

Finos J. Carrau

The Carrau family first made wine in Catalua, Spain in 1752. In 1930 they moved their base of operations to Uruguay. This large winery has a modern production facility in the Las Violetas region of Canelones and another in Rivera, in the far north near the Brazilian border. Javier Carrau, Director of the company, represents the ninth generation of his family in the wine business. Carrau produces
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Javier Carrau.

Marta Mndez at Gimnez Mndez.

Dante Irurtia

Another winery founded by Basque immigrants, Irurtia owns over 800 acres of vineyard near the beautiful old town of Colonia, just across the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires. Irurtia makes an interesting sparkling wine from Chardonnay and Muscat as well as a number of reasonably priced varietals such as Gewurztraminer, Viognier and Tannat under the Km.0 label.

in Caneloness limestone-clay soil. The winery is run by the fourth generation of Marichals, brothers Juan Andrs and Alejandro, with help from the third generation, their mother Lidia and father Juan Carlos. The winery produces Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Tannat.

Pizzorno, a hard-working couple who have recently added on to the winery and are producing sparkling wine, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Tannat.

Vino Finos H. Stagnari

Pisano Family Vineyards

Establecimiento Juanic

The Juanic property in Canelones has a long history beginning in the 1830s. In 1979 it was acquired by the

The Pisano family arrived in Uruguay from Liguria in 1870. In 1924 the next generation produced the first Pisano wine. Today the winery is guided by the dynamic, mustachioed Daniel Pisano who, with his brothers Eduardo and

This small winery produces white wines from estate vineyards in Canelones and red wines from Salto, 300 miles to the north. The winery is located in the Nueva Hesprides region of Salto. H. Stagnari has won many awards and medals for its Viejo Tannat.

Juan Andrs Marichal.

Daniel and Eduardo Pisano.

Carlos and Ana Pizzorno.

Deicas family who have greatly modernized the operation and enlarged it into Uruguays biggest producer. The company farms over 500 acres of vineyard and was one of the first Uruguayan producers to recognize the potential of Tannat for the region. Three generations of Deicas family members are involved in the winery, which has a partnership project with Bernard Magrez and Chteau Pape Clment.

Gustavo, have made this winery one of Uruguays best known. All wines are made from estate-owned vineyards in Canelones. Although the simple, basic winery produces just 30,000 cases, Pisano wines have found a wide-spread international market with distribution in more than 45 countries. The Pisanos produce a large range of wines including Torronts, Viognier, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Tannat.

Via Varela Zarranz


This small winery was established in 1938 by the Marichal family who descended from immigrants from the Canary Islands. All wines are produced from estate-owned vineyards planted

Pizzorno Family Estates

The Pizzorno winery, established in 1910, is only a few miles from Pisano. All wines are made from the 50 acres of estate-owned vineyards. The current proprietors are Carlos and Ana

The Varela Zarranz family began producing wine in 1933. They bought the current Canelones vineyard and winery site in 1944. There are 240 acres that comprise vineyards, winery, storage and a remarkable garden featuring a number of unusual botanical specimens. Victoria Varela, a member of the youngest family generation, is winery spokesperson, and young Carla Falabrino is the enologist. Production includes sparkling wines, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Tannat. An unoaked 2011 blend of Tannat and Merlot may be a preview of a new style of value wine that shows great promise for export.
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Tasting Notes

A small selection of the best releases I tasted. Approximate SRPs are given for wines available in the U.S. market. A. D. B.
Filgueira 2011 Tannat/Cabernet Franc, Clsica, Santa Lucia, Canelones Lush and dense with ripe plum, soft tannins and rich flavors; chocolate, spice and tangy acidity. 89 Filgueira 2011 Tannat, Proprium, Santa Lucia, Canelones ($20) Smoky, lush and stylish with toasty oak and rich plum, spice and cassis; tangy and supple. 90 AD GLOBAL CORP. Bodega Garzn 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Garzn Bright, fresh and juicy with clean, lively citrus; vibrant, racy and pure and focused. 90 Bodega Garzn 2011 Tannat, Garzn Smooth, lush and modern with generous plum fruit and smooth texture; sweet oak and ripe cherry; lovely, juicy and balanced; long and seductive. 91 SEEKING U.S. IMPORTER Gimnez Mndez 2012 100 Aos Sauvignon Blanc, Les Cerillos, Canelones ($15) Grassy, fresh and minerally with lovely texture and focused citrus and white peach; pure, racy and vibrant. 90 Gimnez Mndez 2010 Alta Reserva/Identity Tannat, Edicin Limitada, Canelones ($20) Rich, dense and powerful; cassis, blackberry and spice; long and lovely. 91 Gimnez Mndez 2009 Premium Tannat, Canelones ($27) Stunning and complete with great depth, structure and length; plum, spice and amazing balance; elegant and beautifully textureda blockbuster, yet totally integrated and stylish. 92 ECOVALLEY/FACE TO FACE (CA)/

Alto de la Ballena 2008 Cabernet Franc Reserva, Maldonado Smooth and ripe with rich texture and lovely balance; long and generous. 90 Alto de la Ballena 2008 Syrah Reserva, Maldonado Ripe blackberry and cherry fruit; lush and rich with excellent structure and balance; long and lovely. 90 SEEKING U.S.

Establecimiento Juanic 2005 Familia Deicas Tannat 1er Cru dException, Canelones-Juanic ($125) Dark, luscious and elegant with spice, depth, intensity, focus and breeding; chocolate, plum and power. 94

Bouza 2010 Merlot, B9 Parcela Unica, Canelones ($39) Smooth, lush and elegant with ripe, juicy plum and tangy acidity; balanced, dense and spicy. 91 Bouza 2009 Monte Vide Eu, Canelones ($60) Lovely plum and cassis fruit; tangy and brightly structured with seamless balance and focus; long and ageworthy; 50% Tannat, 30% Merlot, 20% Tempranillo. 92 SOUTHERN

Marichal 2011 Premium Varietal Chardonnay, Canelones ($10) Fresh and clean with good depth of flavor; lovely fruit with good minerality and pure, long flavors; no ML, no oak. 90 Marichal 2009 Tannat, Reserve Collection, Canelones ($19) Deep, rich and tangy with spice, lively black raspberry and racy acidity; crisp, generous and complete; balanced and delicious. 91 FACE TO FACE (CA)/TKO WINES (MN) Pisano 2009 Tannat Sueos de Elisa, Via Progreso, Canelones Juicy and vibrant with tangy acidity, plum and berries; fresh and focused. 91 Pisano 2002 Axis Mundi Super Premium, Canelones ($70) Dark, dense, rich and powerful; tangy, long, intense and massive; vivid, focused and amazing. 94 Pizzorno Family Estates 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Reserva, Canelones ($15) Bright acidity and lovely depth; long and stylish with balance and nerve. 91 Pizzorno 2006 Primo, Canelones ($45) Dense and concentrated, with juicy plum and cassis; very complex with lovely, idiosyncratic flavors; 50% Tannat, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot. 91 SOMMELIER

Bodegas Carrau 2009 J. Carrau Pujol Gran Tradition, Cerro Chapeu Plum and soft herbs on the nose; elegant, rich and complex; 45% Tannat, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc. 91 Bodegas Carrau 2007 Amat Tannat, Cerro Chapeu ($34) Dark, lush and juicy with rich plum, blueberry and spice; long and stunning. 92

Castillo Viejo 2011 Catamayor Sauvignon Blanc, Reserva de la Familia, San Jose ($15) Pure, clean and bright with citrus, tangy acidity and vibrant fruit. 90 Castillo Viejo 2008 Catamayor Tannat, Reserva de la Familia, San Jose ($15) Toasty vanilla and smooth black plum; stunning fruit and long, rich style; charming. 90 Castillo Viejo 2007 Catamayor Grand Tannat, San Jose ($40) Toasty vanilla and smooth black plum; lush and juicy with stunning fruit and long, rich style. 92 BEDFORD INTERNATIONAL
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Dante Irurtia 2011 Km.0 Viognier Reserva, Colonia Aromatic, creamy, minerally and lush, but a very good core of acidity. 89 Dante Irurtia 2007 Dante Coleccion, Colonia Ripe, complex plum and blackberry; dense, sweet fruit and lovely texture. 90 URUGUAY IMPORTS Establecimiento Juanic 2011 Pueblo del Sol Tannat, Reserva, CanelonesJuanic ($15) Smooth, lush and generous; juicy, spicy and rich and balanced; easy-going and long. 88

H. Stagnari 2010 Viejo Tannat, Salto Bright and juicy with fresh plum, blackberry and cassis; tangy, lively and balanced; racy with notes of chocolate. 90 Varela Zarranz 2009 Tannat, Roble, Canelones Lush, elegant cherry and soft herbs; supple, balanced and luscious, deep and ripe. 89 Varela Zarranz 2007 Tannat, Solis, Roble, Canelones Elegant with lush plum and firm, tangy structure; lovely depth and balance with classy style; supple, complex and excellent. 91