Nearshore Americas

Uruguay’s Little Known but Richly Rewarding Wine Region

Argentina, Australia, Chile, New Zealand and South Africa are the main wine growing countries in the Southern hemisphere, all located between parallel latitudes 30 and 35 degrees south. At 33 degrees and surrounded by the Río de la la Plata to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, Uruguay has earned a place on that list, with over 9,000 hectares (22,000 acres) under cultivation.

All of Uruguay’s grapes are harvested by hand, yielding high quality, elegant wines. The country’s wine, mainly its Tannat, has been winning awards in fairs and exhibitions in cities ranging from London to Buenos Aires over the past few decades.

With its warm climate resembling Bordeaux or New Zealand, and the strong winds coming from the Atlantic and the Río de la Plata, it is no surprise that Uruguay’s grapes have allowed local wine growers to turn this into one of the country’s main exports. It has also made Uruguay a favorite destination for wine enthusiasts, who can choose to visit many wineries.

Wine Touring Tips

Twenty wineries offer tours and wine tastings in Uruguay. Should you choose to spend a day at one of them, there are some tips you need to remember. First, it is a good idea to choose one of the smaller, family-owned wineries as they will probably devote more time to your specific questions. With Uruguayans’ well-known reputation for hospitality, you may even end up hearing excellent stories about how a great-grandfather founded the winery or take home some secret family recipe.

Many wineries open at about 10 a.m. and remain open until 3 or 4 p.m. It is a good idea to phone ahead and book a tour.

Finally, it is advisable to hire a taxi or appoint a designated driver so that, if the wine tasting turns into a full meal with different varieties of wine, you can still relax and enjoy without worrying about driving back to your hotel. Most downtown hotels in Montevideo can arrange this service for their guests.

Suggested Winery Tours

Three good tours to try:

Stagnari. 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the city center, a tour of Bodega H Stagnariincludes a visit to the winery where tourists learn about Uruguay’s history of winemaking, and enjoy tastes of five of the winery’s varietals as well as snacks such as cheese, nuts and fruit. The winery is open to visitors with a 24-hour reservation Monday to Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Bouza. Another family-owned winery, Bodega Bouza offers private tours of its facilities, a large property built in the style of a French estate where visitors learn about their winemaking process and taste their products while enjoying a breathtaking view of the grapevines.  The winery is open from Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with tours at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Tours also take place on Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. You can find directions here.

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Marichal. When visiting Bodegas Marichal, tourists get to attend a wine tasting at the original family house as well as learn about the adventures and challenges faced by the Marichal family during the 100 years in which they had the vineyard. Wine tasting menus include three wine tastings and lunch with traditional empanadas, barbecue or salads. Visits last from two to three hours and can be booked through the Marichal website.

Pat Antuña Yarza

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