You may remember that Julia went to Uruguay at the end of last year and came back full of enthusiasm for some of the wines and the way they combine fresh Atlantic influence with reliable sunshine, fantastic meat, nice people etc etc.
She forced me to taste a range of wines from one of the producers that most impressed her, Bouza, about whom you can find out more in Julia's articles on Uruguay. I have to admit I was very impressed too by their reds and especially, as one might expect, by their Tannats. Tannat is to Uruguay what Malbec is to Argentina: a red grape traditionally associated with south west France that seems if anything almost more at home under the South American sun.
Here in Uruguay the tannins are much softer and there is none of the mandatory 10 year wait that one has for a fine Madiran. (We tasted a Madiran or two alongside the Bouza Tannats and were much more beguiled by the Uruguayans.) In fact this Bouza Tannat 2004 Las Violetas, Uruguay is a babe in arms by French standards and yet is already drinkable and should drink beautifully from next year for the next four years or so I reckon. Las Violetas is a prettily-named vineyard, I am told.
I liked its dense, firm, confident on the nose and lovely full fruit impact on the front palate with some tar and liquorice and firm fruit first, and only then very slightly inky tannins. The alcohol level is 14.5% but it doesn't taste hot. UK importers Great Western Wine, a favourite of purple pagers Patience Waddilove I seem to remember, are currently listing it at £11.50.
Bouza also make a very competent and rather softer Tannat/Merlot 2004 (£9.95 Great Western Wine) and a rather delicious Tempranillo/Tannat 2005 which has real savour though is not such a cellaring proposition as the pure Tannat. Top of their range are several special bottlings of Tannat, notably the glorious Bouza Tannat A8 Parcela Única 2005 Montevideo – a wine for really serious ageing but with real substance and rewarding depths – already drinkable with a fine rib of beef as I can attest.
Alas I cannot locate stockists elsewhere apart from one in Brazil who seems to be charging the equivalent of a pretty iniquitous £22 for the Tempranillo/Tannat but I urge you to look out for these and other wines from Uruguay.