El Capricho Wines- Uruguay

El Capricho Wines- Uruguay (Photo by the brand)

South America’s Other Wine Country

When most people think of South American wine, Argentina and Chile usually come to mind first. Most are unaware that Uruguay is a small but mighty winemaking powerhouse, with 164 wineries (and growing). Why? Because most of the wineries are family-owned, producing primarily for domestic consumption. Only 7% of their wine production is exported! 

Uruguay produces 10 million cases annually, with Tannat representing one-third of vineyard plantings, giving Uruguay its nickname “Tannat Country.” The varietal arrived in Uruguay from France, imported by Basque-French emigree Pascal Harriague sometime after 1860. Tannat, a French varietal, is a thick-skinned grape that produces an inky, deeply pigmented wine with equally deep and dark flavors. 

Uruguay’s wine region is defined by its mild maritime climate. Its coastal vineyards are low-lying with high humidity pressure,  so the region has more in common with Bordeaux than with its better-known neighbors Chile and Argentina. Despite its relatively limited international wine exports, Uruguay boasts a healthy wine tourism trade- most wineries have tasting rooms, while some even have lodging. 

El Capricho Winery

One such destination, El Capricho Winery, was founded over 30 years ago by two friends, Dirk Reinicke, and Paul Savio. Dirk came to Uruguay from his native Germany and met Paul, whose family hails from northern Italy. They own seven hectares (approx. 17  acres) of vines planted with Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon, Verdejo, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, and Merlot. Focusing on sustainability, El Capricho vines are organically dry-farmed, employing low-till methodology to minimize soil compaction. And, to support biodiversity, they’ve planted a forest and a fruit tree orchard adjacent to the vineyard.

They’re obviously doing things right, evidenced by their award successes. Vintage after vintage receives rave reviews from the usual suspects: Tim Atkin, Wine Enthusiast, Wine and Spirits, Harper’s, and more. You can see the list here.

El Capricho Winery Aguará Tannat Special Reserve 2018

One of Uruguay’s highest quality Tannats, this limited edition run-over (only 92 cases made) delivers. The wine was aged in new French oak barrels for 18 months and bottle-rested for 12 months before release. A deep, dark, inky color in the glass, coupled with intensely aromatic intensity, signals that this is a Tannat. The wine features dark, brooding black fruit (blackberry and bramble) wrapped around a sweet vanilla core. Notes of cedar and toast on the nose repeat on the palate, where the complexity of this wine shines. Continued notes of black fruit, plus black licorice and coffee bean, serve an assertive and warming mouthfeel. Medium-plus chalky tannins and a long finish round out this stellar example of what Tannat from Uruguay can be. 

Check out other red wine articles here and here.