Friday, June 20, 2014

Uruguay Dashes England's Hopes - Time for Some Tannat

Time for another venture into World Cup wines. The latest game to catch my eye - as an excuse for opening a bottle of wine was Uruguay's 2-1 win over England. The South American team's win more-or-less killed England's chances of advancing to the next stage, but I'll leave the English fans to drown their sorrows in excessive pints, I'm pulling the cork on a boutique Uruguayan wine that I was given at  last year's Wine Blogger's Conference in Penticton.

During the WBC13 conference, I had a number of opportunities to chat with Leslie Fellows, the very personable Director of Sales for Artesana - a premium producer of wine in Uruguay that, understandably, focuses heavily on the Tannat variety. Luckily for me, Leslie is American and speaks English. I say, "luckily," because my Spanglish stops at "Buenos Dias Muchacho" and "dos cervezas por favour" - although I have mastered the fact that "vino tinto"  is "red wine" in Spanish. A handy phrase to know, I'm sure.

1638.  2011 Artesana Tannat-Merlot (Uruguay)

Artesana is a premium producer located in the Canelones region of Uruguay. Admittedly (and despite an interesting luncheon presentation at WBC13), my knowledge of Uruguayan wines more-or-less starts and ends with Tannat. I wouldn't know one wine producing region from another - or that there even are different regions in the country for that matter. The winery website, however, states that the Canelones region is just a short distance outside of the national capital Montevideo and is the "premier wine growing region in Uruguay and home to the majority of the country's vineyards...[with] growing conditions similar to France's Bordeaux region."

 Artesana is a relatively new enterprise and its first vineyard blocks were planted with Tannat, Merlot and Zinfandel in 2007 and 2008 - with the Zin being the first planting of the variety in Uruguay. Cabernet Franc vines were later planted in 2013 to provide additional blending options in the years to come. The winery currently offers five or six wines, including Tannat and Zinfandel varietal wines and this Tannat-Merlot blend.

The back label says that the 2011 vintage is a 60%-40% blend with Tannat providing the bigger proportion. The website goes further to say that the Merlot and Tannat blocks were fermented separately and aged in a mixture of new and used American and French oak for twelve months. The wines were then "blended and bottled without fining or filtration and bottle-aged an additional eight months."

We thought the wine was quite delightful - full of lovely, dark fruit - and, while you definitely noticed the tannins, they were far from overpowering.

There were only 580 cases of this wine made - out of a total production of 1250 cases - but the winery is aiming for a 4000 case capacity by 2016.

I've yet to see Artesana in the Vancouver market but I, for one, would be happy to see that happen.

The Uruguayan soccer team should only wish to be as successful on the field for the rest of the World Cup as this wine was in the glass.

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