Oct 12, 2015|
Last updated on December 23rd, 2020 at 02:01 pm
Uruguay is one of South America’s largest wine producers, creating some of the continent’s highest quality wines and continually innovating the industry. Since the 18th century, after European migration, Uruguay has been producing wines; however, it has only relatively recently entered the commercial wine market with its revival of the French Tannat. Just as Argentina has its Malbec, Uruguay’s success is primarily due to its Tannat, which is known for its vanilla, cardamom, dark chocolate, espresso, and smokey flavors.
There are multiple wine regions within Uruguay, each with unique climates, soil, and cultivation techniques. Depending on your Uruguay itinerary, one area may be better suited for your travel needs, whether to do with proximity factors, wine of preference, or the beautiful scenery associated with each region. Here is a collection of the leading regions dominating Uruguay’s wine market today and some of the best wineries to catch in each.
Canelones – Long-Standing Tradition
The largest wine region in Uruguay, Canelones, is responsible for cultivating 60% of the country’s wines. Located just outside the Montevideo metropolitan area, the region is incredibly accessible to some of Uruguay’s most popular sites and ideal for a day trip. Hosting a humid climate – ideal for the Tannat variety – distant ocean breezes, and poor soil – preferred for wine cultivation – Canelones is well situated for wineries. It is also one of the country’s oldest wine regions, hosting some of the original producers from Europe. Steeped in tradition, visitors will find that the wineries here operate on traditional European production methods and classic wine varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. However, more than any other wine, Uruguay’s beloved Tannat.
The Establecimiento Juanicó has an underground tasting room built in the 1830s and was one of the first wine caves in the country. The cave is a unique experience that you won’t want to miss. The stone buildings’ historical elements still stand, allowing you to enjoy the original style and traditional winemaking practices.
Viñedo de Los Vientos
You can see much of the Italian influences at the Viñedo de Los Vientos. This Italian family has a traditional approach to winemaking. Enjoy a delicious meal at the Winery Kitchen made with the best local ingredients perfectly paired with their wines. Much of this wine is imported to the United States. Their goal is simple: “We’d like to take the best from our soil and history, and translate it into our grapes and wines.”
Montevideo – City Living and Wineries
Uruguay’s capital and largest city also happens to be a hotbed for wineries. Just bordering the famous Canelones region, Montevideo was once the hub of wineries in Uruguay. However, as the metropolitan area has grown, many new wineries have relocated to neighboring regions. Still, the Montevideo metro area is dotted with some of Uruguay’s most extensive and highest quality vineyards, making for an excellent and easy day of wine tasting in the beautiful capital. With soil quality and climate nearly identical to Canelones, the region is ideal for producing grapes.
Featuring excellent wine, friendly service, tango shows, and food pairings, a visit to Bodega Spinoglio is an all-around experience. Located just North of central Montevideo, this vineyard is easily accessible. Founded by italian immigrants, Bodega Spinoglio has run in the Spinoglio family for nearly 200 hundred years. Holding on to traditional Italian methods, while also incorporating new techniques, this family vineyard produces a wide variety of wines. Visitors can taste anything from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon
The Bodega Carrau family winery traces back to 1752 in Spain. In 1930, they established their winery in Uruguay, and now they are one of the country’s largest wine producers. They restored one of the oldest wineries in Uruguay, constructed in 1887. Bodega Carrau is a lovely colonial house with a beautiful park and vineyard, located just minutes from Montevideo. At this family-run winery, you are sure to feel right at home.
Maldonado – Innovative Techniques
One of the youngest wine regions in Uruguay, Maldonado has been turning heads since its introduction to the wine industry. Clashing with the old wine world of Canelones, Maldonado continually seeks to innovate the wine production process, using modern methods to grow their grapes and flavor their wines. For wine enthusiasts who are looking for something new, Maldonado is the perfect region. Maldonado’s soil and rocky terrain are ideal for cultivating various grape varieties, including Cabernet Franc, Tannat, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir. Additionally, located not far from stunning beaches and resort towns like Punta del Este, Maldonado makes a convenient and must-see stop on any Uruguay tour.
This is one of the cutting edge wineries in Uruguay and perhaps one of the best-known wineries. The food and wine pairings offered are tantalizing. After a wine tour and wine tasting, visit the family’s classic car collection to see over 30 cars and motorcycles that date back to the 1920’s. Wines they produce include Albariño white wines, Chardonnay, Merlot, Tempranillo, and Tannat.
Alto de la Ballena
This is one of the most scenic wineries, located near Punta Del Este. Alto de la Ballena is not your typical winery with a tasting room; this winery is set up more like a friend’s country home, warm and inviting. The vineyards include Merlot, Tannat, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Viognier varieties. Started by a husband and wife, the vineyard has grown year after year as they continue to produce incredible wines.
Rivera – Taste of Brazil
Located in North-East Uruguay, Rivera is known for its tropical climate similar to that of Brazil. Located some distance from the coast, Rivera hosts ideal humid temperatures for later-ripening wine varieties. While not as large as Maldonado, Rivera offers visitors a unique look at Uruguayan geography, climate, and soil that differs from the other wine regions. Rivera is mainly known for its Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Bodega Cerro Chapeu
This cute bodega is located along the border of Brazil and Uruguay, providing visitors with a beautiful landscape. Using innovative wine techniques, this long-standing family vineyard is uniquely built within a hill known as Cerro Chapeau. Taking advantage of the hill’s red sand soil and good drainage, the winery profits from its location. Though mainly known for their Tannat, visitors can taste various excellent wines at Bodega Cerro Chapeu, all while enjoying views over the scenic region.
Colonia – Quaint Riverside Vineyards
Colonia is one of the fastest-growing wine regions in Uruguay. Attracting smaller, family-owned vineyards throughout the country, this quaint section along the Rio de la Plata is dotted with cozy vineyards. The soil along the riverfront is rich in calcium, making it suitable for white wine varieties. Sauvignon blanc and chardonnay are famous here. However, further inland, the soil is more rich and fertile, with reds like Tannat, Merlot, and Pinot Noir being more common. Additionally, Colonia has long been designated a vacation destination. With incredible river scenery, historical sites, and quaint beach towns, the region is a must-stop on any Uruguay or even Buenos Aires tour, being just across the river.
Bodega Boutique El Legado
Enjoy a proper vineyard tour at Bodega Boutique El Legado, where guests are shown the cultivation, fermenting, and aging processes. Everything from the selection of barrels to the ripening of grapes is described in detail before tasting the beloved wines. Over a charcuterie board, enjoy varieties such as Tannat, Syrah, and Red Blends. Additionally, this quaint vineyard doubles as a comfortable pousada, perfect for a stay during a wine tour of the region.