Idyllic Uruguay, south of Brazil and northeast of Argentina, piques the interest of wine lovers with its Tannat-based reds and vibrant whites. With about 22,000 acres of vineyards, production is concentrated along the country’s southern coastline, influenced by the Atlantic Ocean and the Río de la Plata. Adding to the allure are Uruguay’s beaches—especially Punta del Este, the region’s top seaside resort—and surrounding towns. Bohemian Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital and largest city, and charmingly rural Carmelo are also worthy destinations for those who love good wines and want to sample Uruguay’s world-class seafood, olive oils and pasture-raised meats.—Alejandro Iglesias
Where To Dine
The most exclusive restaurants can be found in Punta del Este and José Ignacio (a village in the state of Maldonado), where the region’s top chefs meet the demands of the most discerning international palates. Classics like Parador La Huella and La Bourgogne, as well as newer spots like El Mostrador de Santa Teresita and La Linda Bakery, are among the must-try restaurants. Uruguay Natural Parrilla Gourmet and La Otra Parrilla seduce Montevideo visitors with charcoal-grilled meats. Estrecho is a good option to taste a modern take on a classic chivito (a loaded steak sandwich) and other updated offerings of traditional fare. In Carmelo, Narbona Wine Lodge and Casa-Chic have the most refined dining offerings.
Where To Stay
VIK Retreats offers the most exclusive and sophisticated lodging options (Bahía Vik José Ignacio, Playa Vik José Ignacio and Estancia Vik José Ignacio), while Hotel Fasano Las Piedras features ocean-view bungalows. Montevideo has countless lodging choices. Among the most luxurious accommodations is the Sofitel Montevideo Casino Carrasco and Spa, while the new Hyatt Centric Montevideo offers a lovely restaurant and a spectacular rooftop view of the city’s principal promenade. For travelers who favor the tranquility of Carmelo, the Narbona Wine Lodge and Posada CampoTinto focus on quality and top-level cuisine.
Colonia del Sacramento’s Historic Quarter, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an 18th-century Portuguese fortified citadel. Carmelo, with its enchanting lodges and hotels, is perfect for luxury tourism in a bucolic setting; you can relax at a wine spa or go for a drive in an antique car.
Don’t miss the magnificent sunsets on the beaches, especially in Punta Ballena or at the Casapueblo complex that overlooks the Atlantic.
Where to Taste
Uruguay features wineries that combine traditional and modern design. In Maldonado, the flagship winery is mammoth Bodega Garzón, while Viña Edén is one of the newest facilities. Both have restaurants worth a visit. Take a drive down the Sierra de Los Caracoles, a journey that will bring you through wild landscapes, olive-growing areas, vineyards, cow pastures, vegetable gardens and orchards. You’ll reach Atlántida, the home of Viñedo de los Vientos, a delightful family project. Close to the capital city, Canelones is the historical epicenter of Uruguayan viticulture. Wineries open to visitors include Juanicó, Bodega Marichal, Pizzorno Family Estates and Bodega Artesana, as well as Bodegas Carraú and Bodega Bouza, famed for its Albariño. In Colonia, you’ll find Los Cerros de San Juan, an old winery that’s now a national monument. It’s part of the southwestern region’s wine tourism route, which also includes Narbona Wine Lodge, Bodega Familia Irurtia and Posada CampoTinto.
When to Go
The best time to enjoy the vineyards and beaches is October through March. Between January and March, Uruguay celebrates its carnival season.
Since the late 19th century, Tannat has been Uruguay’s flagship wine. Native to Madiran, in the southwest of France, the red variety was first introduced to the country by Basque immigrants. Over time it has adapted well to different landscapes close to the Atlantic, the Río de la Plata and more obscure regions in the north. Uruguay also produces exciting Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño, Gewürztraminer and Riesling, varieties that have started to thrive due to the area’s coastal influence.
Local In The Know
Francis Mallmann, the world-renowned Argentine chef, spends part of the year in Uruguay. He co-owns a hotel and restaurant, Garzón, in the Maldonado village of the same name. “Uruguay is much more than those celebrated beaches,” he says. ”For me, its interest [lies] in the beautiful silence of its rural backcountry and its native forests [in Maldonado and Rocha], which include rolling hills with waterfalls and extended fresh-water lagoons with large bird reservoirs.”