With its improving wines, the planet’s tastiest grass-fed beef and a pristine coastline, South America’s pint-sized gem has a growing presence in our cellars, at our restaurants and is fast becoming a must-visit vacation spot. Here’s your cheat sheet to all things Uruguay.
Commercial wine has existed here since the 1870s. Humid, Atlantic conditions and overly fertile soils, however, have long yielded mostly heavy, rustic pours. Things are rapidly improving, as wineries in the main grape-growing region of Canelones are reducing yields. The result is better, cleaner wines from grapes like Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon and Albariño.
Quality wineries with a presence in the U.S. include Bouza, Establecimiento Juanicó and Pisano. Keep your eye on Bodega Garzón, a lofty project spearheaded by Argentine oil billionaire Alejandro Bulgheroni. Amid thousands of hectares of eucalyptus groves, almonds and olive trees, Bodega Garzón, located 20 minutes inland from José Ignacio, has 800 parcels of newly planted grapes. Tannat and Albariño are the focus. With Italian “flying winemaker” Alberto Antonini in charge of production, Garzón’s future, like that of Uruguay, looks bright.
Bottles To Buy Now
Bodega Garzón 2013 Albariño, $17
This is a light-bodied, crisp style of Albariño made from young vines planted on ballast-based hills in the up-and-coming Garzón region near Punta del Este. Internationally renowned winemaking consultant Alberto Antonini oversaw the production of this seafood-and-salad-friendly white.
Bouza 2013 Albariño, $25
The Bouza family has Galician roots, thus it’s no surprise their Canelones Albariño looks, smells and tastes much like an Albariño from Rías Baixas in Spain. Lees stirring and aging gives this added body and a yeasty, almost vanilla-like character. Drink with fresh cheeses, shellfish or poultry.
Establecimiento Juanicó-Familia Deicas 2004 Preludio Barrel Select, $50
Preludio is a full-bodied Uruguayan red made from six grapes, with Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc making up the lion’s share of the blend. The 2004, which boasts Bordeaux-like characteristics of earth, leather and tobacco, is ready to drink now with hearty foods like pastas and perfectly grilled meats.
If You Go
Where to Stay
Casapueblo in Punta Ballena is 90-year-old artist Carlos Páez Vilaró’s tribute to his son, who survived the 1970s airplane crash in the Andes that’s portrayed in the movie Alive. Part museum, part Vilaró’s art studio and part hotel, the estate sits on a cliff on the Atlantic coast and looks like a grand Santorini seascape property as imagined by Gaudí.
What to Eat
Argentina is famous for its asados (grilled-meat feasts), but when it comes to grass-fed greatness, Uruguay eclipses its neighbor to the west. For the choicest chops in the country, head to Punta del Este’s El Palenque. The Order: The bife ancho (rib eye) cooked medium rare, or jugoso.