If you wanted to tell the recent history of South American wine as briefly and succinctly as possible, you would focus on three red grapes: Malbec in Argentina, Carménère in Chile, and Tannat in Uruguay, all of French origin. The first two have already become ubiquitous, internationally acclaimed, and on the radar of even the newest wine drinkers.
We can say, with full confidence, that it is only a matter of time before Tannat, specifically from Uruguay, will have the same level of prestige and availability as its (currently) more famous friends.
But we’re going to throw you a little curve-ball. Instead of choosing tannat from Uruguay for our wine club this month, we are going to treat it the same way we did Malbec in June. Those of you who were members at the time will remember that we chose esoteric expressions from France and Chile that month. We’re doing this because, to our minds, Uruguayan tannat has already arrived. It’s now time to give you some context through different expressions: one from its native France, one from Uruguay’s neighbor, Argentina.
Clos Fardet, Tannat Madíran AOP, France, 2013
This 100% tannat hails from not just the appellation of Madíran, but the town itself. Madíran sits squarely on the French side of the Basque country. Tannat makes up nearly all of the red grapes in the region.
With this wine, you can see how the grape got its name. “Tannat” means “tannic,” but it would be a mistake to think it simply refers to the amount of tannins. Instead, it refers to the quality of the tannins. Wines made from tannat posses a velvety texture, often accompanied by a very fine dustiness (the case here). While fruit, floral, spice and herbal tones are all present, the tannins steal the show.
In part because of these tannins, the best word to describe this wine is “rustic.” Enjoy with a hearty beef, vegetable and mushroom stew.
Chañarmuyo Reserva, Chamas Honnorat Tannat, La Rioja, Argentina, 2016
This tannat comes from La Rioja, a lesser known, high altitude region further north than Mendoza. Being closer to the equator, but also closer to the sun, the grapes ripen differently than they would in Mendoza. This leads to a bit more acidity and herbal tones.
Like the Clos Fardet, this Reserva uses only tannat. From there, however, the difference in climate, soil, altitude and winemaking philosophy is stark. In fact, these two wines together explain the difference between Old World and New World wines perfectly.
The rustic/dusty quality of the Clos Fardet gives way to an intensely smooth wine, with aromas of dark fruit piercing through more subtle herbal ones. The use of new french oak adds notes of baking cocoa and coffee. And despite how young the wine is (18 months at the time of this post), it drinks exceptionally. This alludes to the use of more modern techniques that can get a wine ready faster, versus the very traditional approach for its French counterpart.
You can treat this wine similarly to how you would treat a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, or a Mendoza Malbec. Give it grilled steak and vegetables, and don’t get too fancy with it.
The gift this month
Coffee lovers, rejoice! Your morning fix just got better! We’ve thrown in a bag of Firebat coffee, beans that are sourced from El Salvador. For those of you who yet to imbibe a brew made from their unreal beans, this coffee showcases everything we love about wine, aromatic, fresh, bright and silky with refreshing acidity. Firebat are roasters based in Ontario, Canada who focus on building relationships with their growers, demonstrating transparency in their practices, and providing unparalleled flavors and quality. We’ve proudly sold their coffee for nearly a year now, and we will continue to do so.