If somebody mentions New World wines, we’re most likely to think of the fertile valleys of California, Argentina and Chile. In recent years however, little Uruguay on the east coast has been slowly making a name for itself – without the aggressive marketing abilities of its larger South American rivals, Uruguay is still unchartered territory for many wine aficionados but produces sophisticated reds, whites and rosés that are well worth investigating.
The relatively flat landscape consists of gently weathered terrain, temperate climate and balanced altitude, with a mixture of clay, silt and limestone elements in the soil. This results in wines that often have more in common with their European cousins than the deep, heavy reds of the Chilean Carménère or Argentinian Malbec – Uruguayan wines are more likely to have delicate personalities with complex tannins, lower alcohol and a touch more acidity.
Wine production is largely concentrated (90%) to the Canelones region on the South coast of the country, where strong inland breezes from the Atlantic Ocean moderate the South American heat. The clay elements in the soil retain plenty of water – to the extent that vines rarely require irrigation – and the stability has enabled some unusual combinations of different varieties.
Uruguay’s signature wines are reds produced from Tannat grapes; Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc have also taken well to the region, and some whites such as Albariño are gaining an international reputation.
Combine a visit to Uruguay’s wine regions with a tour around the rest of the country – this relatively unspoilt country is a little off the beaten track and features charming colonial towns, quaint fishing villages and wide, unspoilt beaches.
Include a bit of Uruguay travel in your itinerary with Latin Odyssey, or get a feel for the country with our images. Uruguay beaches are sublime, with the gorgeous fishing village of Jose Ignacio showing off some of the best.
You may occasionally find Uruguayan wine in supermarkets and high street importers – look closely!