Why is everyone talking about the Tannat wine grape? Uruguay's flagship varietal is raising eyebrows as it takes the wine world by storm.
Although Tannat isn't nearly as famous as staple grapes like Cabernet and Chardonnay, it's the grape’s one-of-a-kind personality that makes wine lovers and professionals pay attention to the noble grape.
Argentina has Malbec, and Chile has made Carmenere its own 'icon' grape, Uruguay, at the same latitude as prestigious wine regions around the globe, has taken a nearly forgotten French wine grape to the new century with quality wines as versatile and elegant as they're enjoyable — Tannat.
Tannat might be unknown, but that's what adds excitement to every drop of the deep-hued wine made with it. Wine is all about new experiences, and that's Tannat's specialty: offering awe-inspiring moments with every glass.
1. Tannat is one of those lesser-known varieties everyone's talking about
'Anything but Chardonnay' is becoming the trend in restaurants and wine bars around the world, and the same applies to the already-too-common Cabernet, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc. Wine aficionados are ready to try new varieties and wine styles.
According to some authors, there are over 10,000 distinct wine grapes. Yet, only a dozen occupies most of the vineyards.
In the past decades, food has diversified massively. The global food scene has embraced diversity in all tiers, from fine-dining establishments to mom and pop's diners, and now it's the time for wine to do the same.
Tannat Wine is one of those lesser-known varieties stepping up into the spotlight to inspire and wow wine drinkers, not only because it's an uncommon variety, but because the wines made with it are delicious.
2. A grape with history and a sense of place
Unlike most other drinks, the wine reflects its origin and history like a picture. Every bottle of wine tells an exceptional story.
Tannat is a rare French grape cultivated for centuries around the town of Madiran, in Southwest France. Although well-regarded by the depth of flavor and quality of its wines, it's still a local specialty enjoyed by few wine connoisseurs that know of its existence.
The sturdy and elegant grape was brought to Uruguay's blessed slopes by the French enologist Pascual Harriague in 1860, which is why Tannat is also known in as Harriague.
Tannat immediately adapted to the South American climate cooled by the oceanic breeze, and you can taste the terroir in the glass as well the 160 years of history behind the grape.
3. Tannat is versatile
Tannat wines are well known for their structured palates of tight-knit tannins and intense red and black fruit aromas. The deep-hued wines are concentrated and long-lived. For some, Uruguay's Tannat wines can be described as old world wines crafted in a new world country.
The grape is also quite docile in the winery, and winemakers can create nuanced wines of elegance and round textures with it. Today, wineries craft a myriad of styles made with the French grape, from cellar-worthy, collectible wines to young wines to enjoy in their youth.
Tannat is an excellent stable-mate too and plays a significant role in blended wines that can include anything from the structured Cabernet Sauvignon to the silky Pinot Noir.
From structured, full-bodied reds to medium-bodied fruit-forward wines, Tannat is incredibly versatile and offers something for every palate.
4. Tannat is the perfect pairing for grilled meat
Like all the great wines in the world, Uruguay's Tannat wine has blended seamlessly with the country's cuisine.
Wine and food are two sides of the same coin, and this is particularly true in Uruguay. The country is famous for its 'asados' or grilled meat extravaganzas that more than the food are, a celebration to great meat, cheese, and sausages, the main ingredient in festive get-togethers around friends and family.
Tannat is the quintessential red wine to pair with grilled meat. The wine's tannins and well-defined flavors bond with the proteins and fat in the country's high-quality beef.
Wine is as essential at the table as chimichurri sauce and provoleta cheese because together, they offer an experience greater than the sum of its parts.
5. All Tannat wine is driven by passion
Grapes are important, but what makes great wine are the people behind it.
There are over 200 wineries in Uruguay. Most of them are family-owned and passed on from generation to generation. Boutique wineries abound, and the vineyards are tended like gardens.
There's an intimate relationship between the grape growers and their vines, between the grapes and the winemakers, all together as a big family.
Tannat is at the heart of a passionate community with a single aim — to make extraordinary wine that reflects the country's personality.
Wineries all around Montevideo, and the Canelones, Maldonado, and San José departments, play a role in this act of passion for putting Tannat under the spotlight where it belongs.
What's even more special, most wineries offer exclusive experiences around food and wine and impressive views of land and sea. They're all waiting for wine lovers with open arms, and they alone are good enough reasons to visit Uruguay.
Learn more about Uruguay's wineries and the people behind them; unique places like Bodega Garzón here: 5 Reasons Why You Should Try Garzon If You Haven't Already.
Where to start?
Getting to know Tannat wine is an exciting endeavor, and there's no way of doing it wrong. You can pick a bottle with your eyes closed and find yourself drinking a beautiful rendition of Uruguay's iconic grape. Here are a few bottles to get you started.
Alto de la Ballena Reserva Tannat - Viognier, Uruguay
This unique blend of Tannat and the aromatic white grape Viognier makes two-thirds of the winery's production. Founded in 2001, Alto la Ballena offers this violet-hued wine with aromas reminiscent of red fruits, spices, and wildflowers over a rich palate infused with cinnamon and vanilla.
Bodega Garzon Single Vineyard Tannat, Maldonado, Uruguay
Wild cherries, plums, and dark chocolate aromas greet your nose in every glass of this concentrated single vineyard Tannat from a reputable producer in Maldonado. Palate coating and fresh, this elegant rendition of ripe Tannat grapes rivals any full-bodied red wine in the country.
Viña Edén Tannat Cemento, Pueblo Edén, Uruguay
Texturally beautiful, this ruby-red wine sourced from Viña Eden's finest vineyards is a rustic and robust expression of the grape. The wine is fermented and aged in concrete vats for a concentrated palate supporting layers of ripe red fruits, black raspberries, and tobacco leaves in a full-bodied wine that screams for charcoal-grilled beef.
Uruguay has a limited wine production, and most of its tasty Tannat wine is enjoyed within its borders by wine-loving locals and experience-seeking visitors.
Luckily, the wine is exported and available at the most distinguished restaurants and wine retailers in every corner of the earth. There’s no excuse. Hop into the Tannat wine trend and enjoy a bottle of the exclusive wine today.