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We knew Uruguay had a great quality of life, but once we set out to explore the countryside we found it offers excellent experiences for tourists with discerning taste, especially in wine. The entire country is small compared to most of its South American neighbors, but its footprint on our palate made an exceptional impact in terms of wine quality and character.
Any visitor who enjoys good wine should consider exploring the country’s boutique vineyards which are still family owned and operated and follow the European methods rather than the larger production models of nearby Chile and Argentina. Tannat is the French grape which has taken on a life of its own here and finds its finest expression in Uruguayan wines.
There are around 300 wineries in Uruguay that tourists can visit in various capacities. Some are private, others require a booking time and others are open to the public year round. The highest concentration is found just North of Montevideo in the area known as Canelones. The Atlantic winds and clay soils form a magnificent growing region that lies along the same parallel as South Africa and Mendoza.
There are wonderful wineries around some of the country’s major cities Punta del Este, Colonia, Carmelo and Montevideo, but one of the most efficient ways to take in a wine region is to follow Los Caminos del Vino. This is an association of 18 wineries and the wine tourism authority to make wineries and their products accessible to discerning travelers with well marked routes, tasting times and packages. Las Piedras is considered the town which is the wine capital of Uruguay and it has a museum of grapes and wine.
We found two wineries which really made an impact on our impression of the country’s production: Alto de la Ballena and Bodega Garzon. The first is a raw and down to earth facility which is producing savory wines that create a lasting impression. The latter is the country’s most refined vineyard leading in high quality production and methods that show the quality of which these wines are capable of achieving.