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Discover the Wines of Uruguay

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. Currently, Uruguay has 6 main wine regions: Center, Litoral Norte, Litoral Sur, Metropolitan, North and Oceanic.

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.
  6. An interesting fact about the Uruguayan wine industry is that almost 90% of the wine industry in concentrated in the departments of Canelones, San Jose and Montevideo.


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Uruguay is not only famous for its rich culture, but also for its winemaking tradition. The unique terroir of the Uruguay wine country makes it perfect to cultivate a great range of grapes, the most important being Tannat and Chardonnay. Let´s explore the climatic requirements of each grape that thrives in Uruguay, and makes it one of the most interesting emerging wine countries in South America:

  1. Tannat: Tannat is the cornerstone of Uruguay's viticulture, thriving in the country’s warm climate and well-drained soils. This grape requires a lot of sunshine and moderate rainfall, making Uruguay's coastal regions ideal for its growth. Its robust vines are particularly resistant to fungal diseases, which is advantageous in the humid conditions that predominate in parts of Uruguay.
  2. Merlot: In Uruguay, Merlot adapts well to cooler areas where it can ripen slowly, achieving a great balance between acidity and sugar. It grows best in fertile, clay-rich soils, that support a vigorous growth, and prefers consistent levels of moisture throughout the growing season, without excessive water to avoid diluting its aromas and flavors
  3. Cabernet Sauvignon: This renowned grape requires a warm climate to fully ripen, without extreme heat. In Uruguay, it is often planted in locations that benefit from the cooling effects of ocean breezes, which help maintain high levels of natural acidity. The well-drained soils of Uruguay help to prevent root diseases and encourage deep rooting.
  4. Cabernet Franc: Similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc thrives in cooler and sunny spots. It has less resistance to drought, and needs moderate rainfall. It thrives in soils that are rich in limestone, making this grape well-suited to the calcareous regions of Uruguay.
  5. Nero d’Avola: Originally from Sicily, Nero d’Avola thrives in hot, arid conditions. In Uruguay, it is planted in the warmest regions, where the heat helps to obtain grapes with higher concentration of sugars. This grapes has a great tolerance to drought, and prefers sandy soils, that help to retain warmth during the cool nights.
  6. Chardonnay: This popular white grape demands cooler temperatures to maintain its signature acidity. In Uruguay, Chardonnay is often grown in coastal areas where the climate is moderated by the sea. It benefits from well-drained soils and requires careful water management to avoid an excessive vigorous growth and obtain grapes with concentrated flavors.
  7. Viognier: Viognier needs a warm climate to fully develop its aromas, but can be susceptible to over-ripening. It thrives in well-drained soils and benefits from a limited water availability, which helps concentrate its flavors. This grape requires careful handling to prevent diseases.
  8. Sauvignon Blanc: Preferring cooler climates, Sauvignon Blanc in Uruguay often finds a home in elevated or coastal regions. It requires well-drained soils and benefits from a great temperature diference between day and night, something that helps this grape to preserve its natural acidity.

These grapes, coupled with less planted grapes such as Pinot Noir, show the great potential of the Uruguayan terroir to produce a wide range of grapes and wines.

Uruguay produces a wide range of wines that are slowly gaining more recognition, not only in South America but also in other parts of the world. While Tannat is the flagship wine of Uruguay, other wines such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Blanc also play significant roles in the Uruguay wine country. Next, you will discover the winesof Uruguay, and learn what makes them unique:

  1. Tannat: Known for its bold and powerful profile, Tannat is the most emblematic wine of Uruguay. This wine typically shows a deep red color with robust tannins. Aromatically, it offers rich dark fruits notes, such as blackberries and plums, often complemented by a smoky, earthy undertone. In the palate , expect intense fruity flavors balanced with a rustic edge, which can mellow as the wine ages, developing more complexity and softer tannins.
  2. Merlot: Uruguayan Merlot wines tend to be softer and less tannic compared to Tannat, making them more approachable in a younger stage. In the nose, expect aromas of red fruits such as cherries and raspberries, with subtle hints of cocoa and vanilla in aged wines. On the palate, Merlot is round and smooth, with a pleasant lingering finish that often carries a touch of herbal notes.
  3. Cabernet Sauvignon: Cabernet Sauvignon wines from Uruguay are more refined, and have a great structure and balance. Aromatically, this wine shows  black currants and green bell peppers notes, with subtle reminiscence of mint and tobacco. In the palate, this wine shows rich and concentrated flavors, with a blend of fruity and spicy notes that are supported by firm tannins, that make this wine a great prospect for aging.
  4. Sauvignon Blanc: Sauvignon Blanc, the signature white wine of Uruguay, shows a crisp and refreshing profile. The wine has aromatic notes of citrus, especially grapefruit and lime, alongside floral and sometimes grassy notes. In the palate, these white wines are vibrant, fresh and have high levels of acidity, offering citrus and floral flavors, while the finish is usually clean and sharp.

These wines, coupled with less produced wines such as Cabernet franc, show the great winemaking diversity of the Uruguayan wine landscape,

History of the Region

Viticulture in the Uruguay wine country had a later start compared to some other wine regions in South America, 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.

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