6 Sep 2008 by Jancis Robinson

In a nutshell: South America’s only Atlantic-influenced wine producer.

Main grapes: Tannat, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon (red); Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc (white).

Uruguay is South America's fourth most important wine producer although only about 10 per cent of the 270 or so producers export their wines. Thanks to a substantial immigration from Basque country in South West France in the 19th century, it is one of the world's centres of Tannat vine-growing. Here it tends to be softer and riper-tasting than in Madiran and can be drunk much younger. It’s the country’s pride and joy, as a single varietal or blended with Merlot, for example. The maritime climate of the main vine-growing regions in the south around the capital Montevideo is relatively cool and where yields are held in check, both reds and whites retain a characteristic and attractive freshness that is unusual in South America. Whites made from international varieties such as Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Viognier are becoming more sophisticated.

Some favourite producers: Bouza, Castillo Viejo, De Lucca, Juanico, Marichal, Pisano, Pizzorno, Stagniari.

See Vino Uruguay for more information on this region.