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The Tannat Grape-The Gem of Uruguay’s Wineries

Uruguay has a mere 300 wineries that produce 68 million cases of wine each year. To put this in perspective, France, which is three times bigger than Uruguay, has a staggering 27,000 wineries and leads the world’s production with 550 million cases per year.

What the two countries have in common is the tannat grape that was first brought to Uruguay in the 1870s from the Basque region of France by Pascual Harraigue.

The grapes thick-skinned, hearty profile flourished amid the heavy soil and sunshine of South America. Today, Uruguay produces more tannant wines than the French town of Madiran, the vine’s origin.

Wine Folly described the grape as being ‘a bit of a chameleon and shines differently depending on where it is grown.’ Author Stephanie Hubka writing for her blog Road Unraveled, says that the ‘Tannat is a bit of a feisty grape. It is big, bold, red fruit-forward, and a bit smoky. It is also more acidic and, yes, tannic than other grapes, which makes it a perfect wine to sip with a steak dinner yet difficult to love if powerful reds are not your preferred style.’

The flavor profile of Uruguay’s tannat combines blackberry, black cherry, and plum and have a softer taste to the tannin heavy counterparts in France. The grape is often combined with other varieties including the Pinot Noir and Merlot grapes to further soften the flavor and give the final product a fuller character. There are different regions of the country that produce the varietal and winery tours can be arranged as an extension to a horse riding trip while in Uruguay.


Canelones close to the capital, Montevideo, is the biggest wine producing region in the country. Some of the oldest wineries are found here as the climate is mild with enough rainfall to sustain the grapes and an Atlantic wind to cool off hot and humid days.


The coastal region of Maldonado produces another kind of tannat wine. Close to the resort town of Punta del Este, the region’s granite, rocky, and sandy soils and cooler climate make for tannat wines with more aromatic and mineral qualities.


The Colonia region of Uruguay is well known for its wines (and food). The main city of the area is located on the banks of the Rio de la Plata and close to Buenos Aires, on the opposite shore.

Combining a trip to the wineries and Argentina before or after a horse riding trip in Uruguay can easily be arranged as an extension.

To learn more about our trips and tours and the activities that Ride Andes is happy to arrange off the trail, feel free to contact us for advice and up-to-date information about when tours will be in full swing again.

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