Sunday, June 6, 2010

Juanico Bodega (winery)

We took a remise (this is the Uruguayan version of a car service yet different than the US as a remise is most likely to drive a small 4 door car - a Honda or Camry sized car. They are preferred by many because the cabs here are very small) to Juanico Winery. The location is about 40 km from Montevideo. They are on the 34 parallel on line with wineries in South Africa, Australia, Argentia and Chile. It is the largest vineyard here with 500 Hectacres of land (1 hectacre=2.47 acres) and 268 hectacres in production making 4.5 liters of wine. It has been a winery since 1830 and many of the buildings are original to the farm. They started more modern wine making and blending practices in the 1980s when the Deicas family took over the vineyard and begin research of new techniques and studies. They are planting 10 hectacres of new vine stock each year. They grow a variety of grape - chardonnay, cab franc, merlot, syrah, tannat and new modified vine which produces a Cab/Genache blend. The Juanico winery is committed to quality. For this reason they set out to be the first South American winery to obtain the demanding ISO 9001 certificate of quality, and achieved it.

I must give everyone a bit of info on the Tannat as everyone here talks about it and, definitely, drinks it! First produced in the Madiran region in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains in France, in 1870, Basque immigrants brought the grape to Uruguay, where it adapted perfectly to the local soil and climate. Tannat continues to be grown in France (though a large producing region was destroyed by blight), though its South American form has oenophiles the world over abuzz. While French Tannat is typically blended with Cabernet to lessen the high levels of tannins (in fact, the tannins lead the grape to be named "Tannat"), Uruguayan Tannat is less tannic and contains less alcohol.

The experience at a Uruguayan winery is much different than you would have in the US. We arrived for a scheduled visit at 2pm. We were joined by 4 other visitors who were Brazilians living in Uruguay, working for Wells Fargo and preparing to move to Miami for Wells. We were the only people in the vineyard. We started with a tour of the vines and grounds then to the production area. We returned to the main building where were toured the private cellars. Most of the wines in the private cellar were for family use only. We gathered in a very comfortable living room like setting and enjoyed their sparkling wine, a chardonnay (which is not like a US chardonnay it was very young, light and did not have the oak/butter taste we are familiar to chardonnay), a tannat, a port and a blend all with a selection of smoked meats and fresh breads. The wines were delicious.

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