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Why Uruguay could be the world's next great wine destination.

Uruguay: Your next wine destination?

April 7, 2020

Discover terraced vines and spindly olive trees form a patchwork quilt over gently rolling hills, which are themselves covered by a maze of powdery dirt roads. Follow one of these bumpy paths far enough and you'll find an olive oil mill, a farm-to-table restaurant and a hilltop winery. In fact, if you squint a bit, this place could pass for the famed Italian wine region of Tuscany - that is, if you can overlook the wild capybaras (the world's largest rodents) and ostrich-like rheas running through the vines. These creatures, of course, are telltale signs you're in a totally different hemisphere on a completely different continent: South America. Welcome to Uruguay's next wine destination!

re-posted from CNN Travel

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Winery - Bodega Garzon

It's not that South American wines aren't well known. When experts in California, France or Italy discuss fine wines from South America they typically reference two countries: Chile and Argentina. Chile revived the lost French grape of Carmenere and with it, fashioned Bordeaux blends that now rival those from the Old World. Meanwhile, Argentina spearheaded a global craze for Malbec that gave the varietal a permanent home on wine shelves the planet over. Yet, there's another player that's slowly built up momentum in recent years, thanks, in no small part, to a pioneering new winery that's experimenting with grape varietals and dismantling regional stereotypes. The country is Uruguay, and the winery is Bodega Garzon.

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A real wine country

Garzon is located inland from the fashionable beach town of Jose Ignacio, about three hours east of the capital Montevideo. The vines here are barely a decade old, but that hasn't stopped Garzon from racking up an impressive list of awards. Wine Enthusiast Magazine named it New World Winery of the Year in 2018. The following year, it landed the No. 2 spot on the inaugural top 50 list from the World's Best Vineyards Academy. Suddenly, the world is beginning to give South America's neglected stepchild a closer look. Uruguay has a 150-year-long history of wine-making, but it's always struggled to get the kind of attention that its neighbors have received for decades. Size may play a part. South America's second-smallest nation has historically had a wine industry that's slight in scale, minuscule in exports and iffy on quality. Bodega Garzon is out to change that, but it hasn't always been easy.

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Dinning at the winery farm restaurant

A posh private club, commercial olive oil mill and 120-seat restaurant led by celebrity chef Francis Mallmann (whose primal technique of open-fire cooking featured on the Netflix series "Chef's Table") keep visitors lingering far longer than they might expect. Part of Bodega Garzon's success in producing fine wine has been selecting varietals that will grow well in Uruguay's hot and humid climate. Tannat, a highly tannic red wine varietal from the south of France, was already Uruguay's signature grape long before Garzón arrived on the scene. It was a given. However, the Galician white wine varietal of Albarino has proved to be one of Garzon's biggest surprises, winning awards for its freshness, minerals and round finish. The winery also gives the Bordeaux blending grape Cabernet Franc a starring turn as a single varietal, highlighting its soft tannins and peppery punch.

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Bodega Garzon and its white wines

Uruguay is the home of great food, so it stands to reason that Uruguayans would be able to produce some amazing beverages to go with it. Their fresh fish has been coupled with great national white wines like Albarinos, and the country’s crown jewel has been the development of its signature red, Tannat, which makes a perfect match with red meat. This small country is the fourth largest producer of wine in Latin America, and the list below explores eight of the finest vintages Uruguay has to offer. Albarino 2013 (Albariño), this wonderfully crisp white wine is an affordable taste of charm and distinction that has a light body and smooth finish. It is from a nationally celebrated winery near the city of Punta del Este, and as such it is the perfect companion of fresh seafood dishes and rich salads.

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Fantastic soil produces perfect wine

Another key element of Bodeza Garzon vineyards terroir is the strong influence of the Atlantic Ocean, which is only 18 km away. This leads to a steady, pleasant fresh breeze that caresses our vines, an effect noticed in the final product of wines. On the other hand, Geology in the Garzon area belongs to what is known as Crystalline Basement, which gave origin to the oldest soils in the planet over 2500 million years ago. When those rocks are altered and broken down through million years of geology, a fantastic soil of weathered rock is formed, called Ballast. Viña Eden Chardonnay 2015 (Chardonnay), one of the bottle wines in Bodega Garzon vineyards. This young winery is the perfect example of the triumph of passion and precision in wine-making. It has a welcome innovative fervor that is uncommon in the world of wine. This vintage has a fresh balance with elements of coconut, pineapple, and a touch of citrus that has an exciting finish that lasts on the tongue. Expect to hear a lot more about this vineyard and its wines in the near future.