Uruguay

Uruguay

6413
vineyard hectares
6
regions
17
subregions
189
wineries
about this region

Uruguay, located in the southeast of South America, is emerging as a notable wine country in the region. Bordered by Argentina to the west, Brazil to the north and northeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the southeast, Uruguay offers favourable conditions for grape cultivation and winemaking.

The wine industry in Uruguay is currently experiencing growth and gaining recognition for its high-quality wines. In 2018, more than 48 million liters of wine were marketed in Uruguay , according to Statista. This indicates the increasing popularity and market demand for Uruguayan wines.

The country's wine production is regulated and overseen by the Instituto Nacional de Vitivinicultura (INAVI), the National Institute of Viticulture. INAVI provides support and quality control measures to ensure the excellence of Uruguayan wines.

Uruguay's wine exports have been expanding, with several key markets emerging. According to INAVI's statistics from 2022, the top five export destinations for Uruguayan wine are:

  1. Brazil: With a volume of 3,363,905.25 liters, Brazil is the largest market for Uruguayan wine exports. Proximity, cultural ties, and a growing appreciation for Uruguayan wines contribute to this strong trade relationship.
  2. United States: The United States is another significant market, importing 387,034.50 liters of Uruguayan wine. The American market offers a vast consumer base and a diverse range of wine preferences.
  3. Russia: With a volume of 212,242.50 liters, Russia is a growing market for Uruguayan wines. The demand for wine in Russia has been steadily increasing, presenting opportunities for Uruguayan producers.
  4. United Kingdom: The United Kingdom imports 115,026 liters of Uruguayan wine, reflecting a growing interest in the country's wine offerings. The UK market appreciates a wide range of wine styles and is receptive to new and unique wine regions.
  5. Mexico: Mexico imports 96,709.50 liters of Uruguayan wine, demonstrating a developing market for Uruguayan producers. Mexico's wine consumption has been expanding, and there is room for further growth in this market.

Associations

vinerra illustration

Most Planted White Grape Varietals: Moscatel, Sauvignon Blanc

  1. Chardonnay: This white grape variety is widely cultivated in Uruguay, with its presence in 133 wines, indicating its popularity and adaptability to the local terroir​​.
  2. Viognier: Another important white grape varietal in Uruguay, Viognier is found in 50 wines, showcasing its acceptance and successful growth in the region​​.
  3. Albariño: Gaining significant attention in Uruguay, Albariño is highly praised for its adaptability to the country's humid, Atlantic climate, similar to its native Galicia. This varietal is seen as a rising star in the Uruguayan wine scene​​​​.
  4. Sauvignon Blanc: Sauvignon Blanc, in particular, is one of the most-planted white varietals, recognized for producing refreshing wines with good varietal typicity​​​​.
  5. Riesling and Petit Manseng: Although less prominent compared to others, Riesling is also grown in Uruguay contributing to the diversity of white wines in the country​​.
  6. Petit Manseng: A white grape variety originally from the Jurançon region in France, has found a niche in Uruguay's diverse viticultural landscape.

Most Planted Red Grape Varietals:

  1. Tannat: Undoubtedly the most famous and widely planted red grape in Uruguay. Originating from the Madiran region in southern France, Tannat has become Uruguay's signature red wine grape. It's known for its robust nature and high levels of polyphenols like resveratrol, which are believed to offer health benefits. The country has dedicated approximately 5,500 acres to this tough-skinned grape, which has adapted well to Uruguay's warm Atlantic terroir​​​​.
  2. Merlot: Alongside Tannat, Merlot is a key player in Uruguay's red wine production. This variety is known for producing softer, fruitier wines compared to the more tannic Tannat, and is often blended with other varietals to create balanced and complex wines​​​​.
  3. Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc: These Bordeaux varieties are significant in Uruguay, offering a variety of dry red wines. Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are notable for their structure and complexity, adding diversity to the country's red wine offerings​​​​​​.
  4. Pinot Noir and Petit Verdot: These varietals, although not as dominant as Tannat or Merlot, contribute to the diversity of red wines in Uruguay. Pinot Noir is known for its lighter, more delicate profile, while Petit Verdot is often used in blends to add color and structure​​​​.
  5. Marselan: A relatively lesser-known grape in Uruguay, Marselan is gaining attention both within and outside the country. This hybrid grape, born from Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, is starting to make its mark in the Uruguayan wine scene​​​​.
  6. Nero d’Avola: This is another variety planted in Uruguay, especially in regions like Canelones, reflecting the diverse tastes and experimentation of Uruguay's wine families​​.

In Uruguay's wine industry, two grape varieties stand out as emblematic: Tannat for red wines and Sauvignon Blanc for white wines.

Tannat is a red wine grape that has found its ideal terroir in Uruguay. It is often consumed as a single varietal, showcasing its unique characteristics. Young Tannat wines typically exhibit an intense violet color and a fruity profile, accompanied by robust tannins. However, as Tannat wines age, the tannins mellow, giving rise to a more elegant and refined wine. This aging process enhances the complexity and depth of flavors, making Tannat a distinct and sought-after wine in Uruguay.

On the white wine side, Sauvignon Blanc takes the spotlight. This grape variety produces wines with intense aromas, even in their youth. Sauvignon Blanc wines from Uruguay have a fresh profile, characterized by vibrant acidity and bright citrus notes. These qualities contribute to the wine's refreshing and easy-to-drink nature. As a single varietal, Sauvignon Blanc allows the expression of its varietal character and showcases Uruguay's ability to produce exceptional white wines.

While Tannat and Sauvignon Blanc are considered the emblematic wines of Uruguay, it's important to note that the country cultivates and produces several other grape varieties, both indigenous and international. This diversity allows for a range of wine styles and options to cater to different palates and preferences.

History of the Region

Viticulture in Uruguay had a later start compared to some other wine regions, commencing in the second half of the 19th century. The establishment of the wine industry was made possible by immigrant families, notably Pascual Harriague, a French-Basque settler in San Antonio Chico, Salto, and Francisco Vidiella, a Catalan settler in Colón, Montevideo.

In 1878, Vidiella successfully planted and adapted the first European grape variety to the climatic conditions of Uruguay, while Harriague accomplished a similar feat with a variety imported from Concordia a few years later. These pioneering efforts marked the beginning of gradual growth in local wine production, leading to an increase in the number of wineries in Uruguay.

However, in 1898, Uruguay faced a significant setback when phylloxera, a devastating vineyard pest attacking the rootstock of vines, arrived in the country. To prevent further damage, the Uruguayan government made the decision to burn all the vines affected by the phylloxera infestation. They were subsequently replaced with rootstock from American grape varieties, which demonstrated resistance to the pest.

While the recovery of the Uruguayan wine industry was slow, signs of growth began to emerge around 1900. The adoption of sustainable practices, such as the use of organic fertilizers, played a crucial role in transforming the industry. These sustainable practices, along with the cultivation of disease-resistant grape varieties, helped to rebuild the vineyards and establish a foundation for the modern Uruguayan wine industry.

Since then, the Uruguayan wine industry has continued to evolve, embracing sustainable viticulture, focusing on quality production, and exploring both traditional and international grape varieties. Today, Uruguay is recognized for its commitment to sustainable grape cultivation, producing wines that reflect the unique terroir of the region and capturing the attention of wine enthusiasts worldwide.

Regions and Subregions

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