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Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Weird Grape from the Odd Country

Uruguay is the second smallest nation in South America with a population of
3.5 million people - that’s smaller than Los Angeles. This tiny place exports mostly beef, dairy products, and wool but the country is also South America’s fourth largest wine producer. Really? Uh, yeah, really. There are about 240 wineries in the country, but only a handful that make enough wines to export and Bodegas Garzón is one of them. Their property includes over 500 acres of vineyard, olives and other crops. All this leads to what is the signature wine from Uruguay, Tannat. Come again? In the early1870s Tannat arrives in Uruguay from France, near the Spanish border region, is planted, and really does well in this specific climate. Who knew?

Bodega Garzon vineyards at sunset

Dark and brooding, the 2012 Bodegas Garzón Tannat lacks typical bright fruit, but has medium tannins, dark blackberry, plum and pomegranate flavors and cries out for game and roasted meats. There is a semblance of roughness at the finish to this wine, an almost earthy rustic quality, but that’s just kinda what Tannat does, regardless of how much oak you slap on it. It’s like a wine that never went to finishing school – and that’s the cool thing about this strapping grape – it is imperfect and drinks that way. And Uruguay does Tannat well. You will be seeing this variety appearing more and more in the near future. Sure, there are some California producers trying their hand at it, but that is a hit-and-miss proposition because very few American vintners have much history with it. Best to find a quality producer who’s been at it for a while, like Bodega Garzón, otherwise a poorly-made Tannat will turn you off, and that would be a bummer – trust me, I’ve had my share of creepy versions. At its best Tannat deserves a place in your wine rotation, and this baby will win you over. BODEGA GARZON

ORIGIN: Garzon, Uruguay
PRICE: $19.99 - 750/ml
ALCOHOL: 13.8%

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