Uruguay is a small Latin American country wedged between Brazil and Argentina with 660 kilometers of coastline overlooking the estuary of the Río de la Plata and the Atlantic Ocean, which brings joy to many Brazilians and Argentinians during the summer season. This country is predominantly agricultural, with the main wealth of livestock operations. This is one of the world’s first producers of meat, wool, and skins.
But what few people know is that Uruguay is also a wine-producing country. The vineyards are located mostly in the south. The region of Canelones recognizes more than 3/4 of total wine estates. But you will also find wine in the regions of Colonia and Maldonado in the south; Salto and Rivera in the North.
The viticulture in this region is not new but dates from the seventeenth century. It was introduced by the Spanish colonizers, mostly missionaries. It is a Basque named Pascual Harraigue which introduces the emblematic Uruguayan varietal Tannat. This grape variety originated in Madiran in France produces powerful and very tannic wines, hence the name “Tannat”.
In 1893, when the wine industry is in full swing, phylloxera spread in the country and wreaked havoc in the vineyards. It was not until the early twentieth century that European immigrants (mainly Italian) reconvert vineyards with grafted plants. With nearly 9,000 hectares of planted vineyards, 280 wineries, the wine is consumed mostly by the local population, and only 3 % of the production is exported. The majority of the production is dedicated to table wine and 20% for fine wine.
Uruguayans love wine and consume about 32 liters per person per year against 22 liters of beer, which ranks it in the top places in the world! You will find there a multitude of European varieties including Tannat, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and the white Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon, Viognier, and Riesling.
The outstanding feature of the Uruguayan vineyard is that the fields are all family-type of at least three generations. That is to say that the whole family participates in the life of the field.
And, a wine route does exist, so if you want to do some wine tourism, why not there?
Wine tourism is a great way to discover a country from within, and Uruguay has many advantages for you to enjoy a pleasant stay.
For example, Casa Pueblo that is the work of Carlos Páez Vilaró in Punta Ballena, at the time summer home and studio of the artist, now a hotel, art gallery and coffee place will amaze you with its unique and funny shapes.
Uruguay also has the longest carnival in the world (40 days !!) that inspired the one in Rio de Janeiro. Two great figures are called ” murgas ,” satirical characters of Spanish origin, and “cantombe” which is a type of Afro-Uruguayan percussion unique in the world …
Tango is also present with its own style, “the Cumparsita”, which is the creation of Carlos Gardel, the most emblematic singer of the country.
It is also the country’s mate, a bitter drink to power energizing and healing. Do not be surprised if you see many people in the street with a thermos in a hand and
a “mate” in the other. Uruguayans carry this convivial drink with them everywhere! They are the biggest consumers of mate in the world!
Not to mention the kilometers of beaches, with the “chic” Punta del Este or the seaside resort Cabo Polonio, natural and sandy hills to no end; pampas and ranches in the center of the country and the baths on the north in Salto region.
How many reasons to visit this country!
Meanwhile, realize that we are spoiled here in Quebec because SAQ offers twenty wines at very reasonable prices. Of course mostly Tannat but also white wines with varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc or Viognier.
Take this opportunity by buying a bottle of wine of this Latin American country where people are so charming and enjoy your Tannat with a good piece of grilled beef!