Posted by: tomciocco | December 3, 2010


Tannat from Uruguay.  Not the two easiest proper nouns for most wine drinkers to wrap their heads around. And together, well…

But when the first wave of Basques and Italians began to emigrate to Uruguay in the 1860s, predictably, one of the little pieces of the Marche and Basse Navarre that came over with them were vine cuttings. And over time, almost shockingly, it was Tannat – among the blackest and most astringent of grapes, hailing from the often harsh, greyish, and mountainous corners of southwestern France, that made a happy home in hot, humid, barely even hilly Uruguay.  It seems that the wetter, sunnier weather, and the richer soils of such growing regions like Atlantida have a way of deftly taming the grape whose very name directly asserts its tannic strength.  

But let me not overstate the case. This is not a chubby valley floor Merlot. No, it’s pretty clear from the first sip that this wine is very well-framed, but those of you who are familiar with the often puckering, gum-stinging Irouleguy, Cahors, and especially Madiran (wines that include or are dominated by Tannat), will immediately note how life in the warm southern hemisphere has notably mellowed the fruit from this tough old vine.

I served this most gregarious wine with a classic Uruguayan beast of a dish called chivite, which is nothing less than an orgy of meats, bacon, cheese, and bread, piled with fried veggies, pickles, greens, etc. topped with a fried egg. As Jen aptly pronounced,  “A heart attack on a plate”. Perhaps. But that just means the mouth-scrubbing burliness of this bottle (and the little fact that Tannat has more heart-guarding resveratrol than any grape in the world) is  the perfect foil for this (delicious!) South American Infarction Platter…

Vinedos de los Vientos Tannat Atlantida, Uruguay 2007

Very deep blackish magenta color. Intense aromas of charcoal, mulberry, briar, toasted bread, soy sauce, licorice and vanilla bean. Fine but very prominent and muscular tannins define the structure, framing dense and chewy bittersweet flavors of black cherry, prune, and tomato paste. Notable flavor of rosewater on the warm, very dry finish.   


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