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Here’s a well-kept secret waiting to be shared: wines from Uruguay. The South American nation carries Old World winemaking in its DNA, and benefits from a thoroughly New World, Southern Hemisphere setting to produce excellent and interesting wines.

Unlike Argentina and Chile’s Andean peaks and sprawling valleys, Uruguay’s vineyard regions fill a landscape of gently rolling hills. The terrain inspired the country’s 19th century immigrants from Spain and Italy to plant vines, which flourished in the abundant sunlight and cool breezes from the Antarctic.

Uruguay’s signature red grape is Tannat, grown more here than in any other country in the world. Tannat is native to southwest France, where it is used to make Madiran wines. In Uruguay’s southern climate, the variety’s considerable tannins are tamed by gradual, full ripening. Oak aging further eases Tannat into a smooth and full-flavored wine, with deep flavors of jammy, dark fruit.

Tannat is often blended with other international varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Shiraz.

White varieties, such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Torrontes, are increasingly used to produce fresh and vibrant wines in Uruguay.

For much of the 1970s and ‘80s, Uruguay suffered under political dictatorship and military rule. Wine production dwindled and was predominantly for domestic consumption. Since the late 1980s, new economic investment has encouraged expansion of the country’s winegrowing, with Uruguayan wines now exported to points throughout North and South America and beyond.

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