Tannat is perhaps not the most well-known wine grape. It is deep and tannic (hence the name) and originally made its home in Madiran in Southwest France.
As Malbec found a home in Argentina, Tannat has found its home in Uruguay.
With this week being Uruguay Wine Week and April 14th Tannat Day, are diving into this grape and its new home where it finds its varietal bliss.
First off, let’s look at where the country is. This is South American and Uruguay lives south of Brazil and East of Argentina, separated by the Uruguay River that meets the Atlantic Ocean at the Rio de La Plata.
The Majority of vineyards are clustered at the edges of the country with the greatest concentration on the southern edge.
Canelones is the largest region and produces 60% of the country’s wine. To the West of Canelones, you find Maldonado, a coastal region that is up and coming with lots of investment in the area. San Jose sits West of Canelones and is another growing coastal wine region. These three regions are where the grapes for the Tannat we tasted hail from.
The famous Tannat? It actually got its start in the northwest part of the country in Salto. More on that below.
In researching, I found a site that had a list of things for which Uruguay is No. 1. Things like the cleanest air, & the most gay-friendly country in Latin America. Did you know that women were given the right to vote in Uruguay in 1917? Also, the university system here is still free.
On top of that, the country is beautiful. There are hot springs in Salto and breathtaking mountain views with waterfalls and natural pools in Salto del Penitente. There are expanses of natural reserves in Maldonado for hiking and the historic buildings on Montevideo. There is The Mano Sculpture at Brava beach (a giant hand reaching up out of the sand).
The father of Tannat in Uruguay – Pascual Harriague
In Uruguay, it was known as Harriague after the father of Tannat in Uruguay, Pascual Harriague who brought Tannat from his home in Basque when he immigrated to El Salto in northern Uruguay in 1870. He came to Uruguay in 1838 at the young age of eighteen. Tannat Day is celebrated on the 14th of April to commemorate the day of his passing.
Today this is Uruguay’s most planted varieties and considering the famous meat dishes of the area, it is no wonder. (Did you know that cattle outnumber people in Uruguay 3 to 1?) Tannat with its big tannins is perfect with a steak or other beef dish.
The Tannat we tasted came from Establecimiento Juanicó one of the largest and most successful wineries in Uruguay and one with a colorful history.
Located in the Canelones District in the Center of the Southern part of Uruguay, this region represents 60% of Uruguay’s wine production. The region has a variety of soils and a gently rolling landscape.
The winery began in 1755, but it was not until Juan Francisco Juanicó took the reins and invested in the first of its type underground cellar that the winery became well known. The Juanicó family controlled the winery until it was purchased in 1945. ANCAP, who purchased it is a state-owned company in Uruguay that is involved in petroleum products, cement, and alcohol, they began making Cognac under license from the French.
In 1979 Familia Deicas purchased the estate, and today Santiago Deicas manages the winery. He is the 3rd generation of his family involved in the winery. (I will be attending a live interview with him and look forward to bringing you more insights on the winery and some of the other Establecimiento Juanico wines)
They work with organic principles to reduce human intervention during the growing season, but come harvest it is all hands on deck as they handpick each bunch.
70% of what they grow are red wines. Yes, of course, they grow Tannat, but they also grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Shiraz, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir, and Marselan. The other 30% are white grapes including: Chardonnay, Viognier, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris.
The underground cellar was built in 1830 and is the oldest cellar in Uruguay.
2018 Don Pascual Coastal Tannat
This wine was received as a media sample. All opinions remain our own.
If you have had a Tannat from elsewhere in the world, this wine might surprise you. It is juicy and approachable, its tannins tamed. There were floral notes of violets, and notes of blackberry, black plum, black cherry. I got just a little white pepper and a note of licorice also on the nose. In my mouth, it is lush and juicy.
The grapes for this wine come from vineyards in San José, Canelones, and Maldonado which are located less than 30 kilometers from the sea, hence the “Coastal” name.
The back of the bottle invites you to “Feel the Freshness of the Coastal Tannat” and they are right. This wine is fresh, juicy, and approachable. This is a great red wine for spring into summer!
What to pair with this Coastal Tannat?
For our pairings, we went with humble fare that seemed just right with the warm weather and the lazy feel of the day.
We made Choripan, a sandwich of sausage and bread popular in Argentina and Uruguay. The name is a contraction of Chorizo and pan, sausage on bread, think of it as an upscale hotdog. It gets topped with chimichurri.
Michael grilled the sausage out back now that it is finally grill weather here! We simply sliced the sausage in half lengthwise and place it in a bolillo topping the sausage with our chimichurri sauce. You could add more, you don’t need to. The flavors are delicious.
We also chose to do gnocchi a dish brought here by the Italian immigrants. It is traditionally eaten on the 29th of the month.
Gnocchi comes with several stories: Italian legend has it Saint Pantaleon asked a group of Venetian farmers for a bit of bread and they invited him to dinner and they ate gnocchi. He blessed them with a rich year of farming and fishing.
In Uruguay the 29th of each month is Dia de Noquis (or Gnocchi day) It is a meal for the end of the month when money was thin. Another story tells of the wealthy in Uruguay inviting the less fortunate to lunch on the 29th and passing coins to these people under the plates of gnocchi to help them get through the end of the month.
We also couldn’t pass up some delicious pairings like blue manchego cheese and some bacon-wrapped bleu cheese-filled dates to kick off our meal.
I’m not sure how we managed it, but we had some wine left over to enjoy later with beef empanadas.
More wines from Uruguay to come!
There is still time to join the celebration of Tannat Day and Uruguay Wine Week! Find a bottle and celebrate!
We have 2 more wines that we will be pairing and sharing with you in the future, the 2020 Don Pascual Coastal White which is a blend of Albarino, Chardonnay, and Verdejo, and their 2018 Red Blend which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tannat, and Marselan!
I had the opportunity to watch a wonderful IG LIVE interview that Amanda Barnes of the South American Wine Guide did with winemaker Santiago Deicas of Familia Deicas and Establecimiento Juanico, where he discussed Uruguayan wines other than Tannat. I look forward to sharing the insights I gained with you in some future posts!
Did you know that the world’s longest Carnival is held in Uruguay? It lasts 40 days and 40 nights. Perhaps we should extend Uruguay wine week accordingly!
This simple gnocchi recipe, it semi-homemade and simple. With a pack of gnocchi, ready to cook, some fresh, arugula and grape tomatoes, and a bit of shredded parmesan, you are set to go. This was inspired by Noquis, the Uruguayan gnocchi traditionally eaten on the 29th of each month!
- 1 16 oz package gnocchi
- ¼ cup of shredded parmesan cheese (or if you are like me, maybe a little more)
- 1 cup of fresh arugula
- ½ cup fresh grape tomatoes
- Cook the gnocchi in salted water as per the package directions (I brought my salted water to a boil, added the gnocchi, and boiled them for 3 minutes)
- Drain the gnocchi
- Add the parmesan cheese and stir to incorporate
- Toss in your arugula and tomatoes. The warm gnocchi will wilt the arugula and soften the tomatoes.
- Serve! Easy as that!
We served this along side Choripan (Grilled Sausage on a roll with chimichurri sauce) and paired it with a beautiful Tannat from Uruguay!
As we were pairing some wines from Uruguay that we received as samples, UruguayWine.com was kind enough to provide us with an Uruguayan Chimichurri recipe. It is sooo tasty! I needed to pay this forward. So, throw this together, grill some sausage and put together a Choripan (Chorizo and bread). It's just sausage, bread and this chimichurri. It needs nothing more and it's so delicious. If you can, pair it with a Tannat from Uruguay.
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup wine vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
- ½ cup of onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- ¼ cup of parsley
- 1 tsp of oregano
- 1 tsp of ground pepper
Finely chop the onion, garlic, and parsley
Combine these in a bowl.
Add the olive oil, wine vinegar, oregano (I chopped that finely also, as mine was fresh from the garden) and add salt and pepper to taste.
Stir this up and pour it into a jar.
This will keep in the fridge for up to a week and the jar makes it easier to shake and re-incorporate the vinegar and oil. This is a perfect sauce for grilled meats or vegetables!
Amount Per Serving Calories 189Total Fat 18gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 15gCholesterol 0mgSodium 5mgCarbohydrates 4gFiber 1gSugar 1gProtein 0g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
If you are interested in South American Wine, then I will add a plug here for a brilliant resource. Amanda Barnes has created the South American Wine Guide. While this is a terrific online resource, she is also publishing a book that will contain maps (like the one she allowed me to use in this post) and so much more information on wine and travel in Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Peru.
You can pre-order a copy now on her website. I had the pleasure of attending a seminar on Wines from Uruguay that Amanda led a few years ago. She is brilliant, knowledgeable, and a terrific speaker. I have no doubt that this will be the quintessential book on wine in South America.
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.