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(Guest Post) Saturday Lunch: Uruguay – A Different South America

by on May 31, 2013

Wines of Uruguay, the South American country’s organization of 23 exporting Uruguayan wineries, is pleased to host the Saturday, June 8 2013 lunch at #WBC13. Nine wineries exporting to Canada and the US will present two wines each, with an overview of Uruguay and its wines to be led by enologist Francisco Carrau of his family’s Bodegas Carrau.

A fifth the size of its northerly neighbor Brazil, a bit smaller than Washington state, Uruguay is a fertile land of rolling hills and prairies with the cooling Atlantic Ocean bordering its east, its better-known wine producing neighbor of Argentina across the wide Rio Plata to its west and south. Average elevation range is 200-300m, annual rainfall ranges between 1000-1300mm,

With more Tannat grown in Uruguay than in the rest of the world combined and a quarter of its 9000ha of vineyards planted to this red grape, Tannat is surely Uruguay’s ‘signature’ variety, similar in importance to that of Malbec in Argentina and Carménère in Chile (though Tannat’s aging potential and high polyphenol content exceed both these fine grapes). Wineries have also found success with Sauvignon blanc along with Syrah, Tempranillo, Merlot, Cabernet sauvignon, Viognier, Chardonnay, Albariño–and a few sparklers which sadly aren’t exported.

Winegrowing began in the early 17th century with the first commercial venture initiated in the 1870s by Basque Frenchman Pascal Harriague. Most vineyards and wineries are in Canelones district, 30-45 minutes by car northwest from the capitol city of Montevideo, with a handful scattered in other areas such as Paysandè and the rapidly expanding Maldonado. Wineries here are predominantly family businesses descending from Spanish, French, and Italian immigrants with a long tradition of winemaking harkening to their ancestral roots. After Brazil, Uruguay’s top countries to export its wines are the US and Canada.

Uruguay is a multiethnic country where innumerable influences, including Asian and African, have merged to create a modern, tolerant society with a vital democracy. 90% of Uruguayans are city dwellers, 40% of the total live in Montevideo, and three quarters of the population live in the country’s south. It possesses an outstanding educational system–every child has a laptop and there are no fees for attending a school or university. No surprise then that the vast majority of its 3.4 million inhabitants are ranked middle class. There is very little poverty while unemployment is only 5% and on a downward trend. No heavy industry exists while mining within its borders is negligible, its water is the purest in the continent, and by government decree all beef must be raised organically. And according to Yale and Columbia Universities’ 2005 Environmental Sustainability Index, only Finland and Norway rank higher than Uruguay for the purest vineyard environment in the world…though neither are as yet capable of viticulture.

Lunch title:

Uruguay–A Different S. America

With the world’s strongest focus upon the historic & healthy polyphenolic-packed Tannat grape, Uruguay’s wineries past and present are both owned & operated by families who typically live surrounded by their vines and treat them as well as they might their own homes.

Speaker: Professor Francisco Carrau

With an ongoing interest in the development of sustainable viticulture practices and ‘low input winemaking’ strategies for increase quality, our speaker Professor Carrau heads Enology for the Food Science Department of University of Uruguay while maintaining his role as R&D director and Head Winemaker of Bodegas Carrau. His Ph.D in Chemistry was obtained at the Australian Wine Research Institute under the guidance of Dr. Paul A. Henschke. Professor Carrau has more than 50 original articles published and more than 100 research works presented at international meetings about wine.

Guest Post Author: David Furer, Consultant to Wines of Uruguay

Both David Furer and Wines of Uruguay are very aware of the importance of blogging to contemporary communications and the spread of knowledge and information about quality wines. Over the last 12 months, they have hosted the following journalists and bloggers in visits to the country and its wine growing areas:

  • Anthony Dias Blue
  • Joe Roberts
  • W. Blake Gray
  • Marisa D’Vari
  • Michael Franz
  • Laurie Daniels
  • Brian Freedman
  • Richard Jennings

By the end of 2013, Wines of Uruguay plans to host another group of journalists and bloggers, so they are very much looking forward to meeting many of you at #WBC13.


  • Doc

    Going to have to add Uruguay to the list of destinations!

  • Kovas Palubinskas

    What a great trip that would be!