Kulers Uncorked: Uruguay Is Hot For Cool Wines

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2015 Garzon Albarino, Uruguay. CONTRIBUTED BY GIL KULERS

Just because the scorching August sun has melted the Naugahyde seats of your mint AMC Pacer doesn’t mean you can’t soothe your sorrows with a nice glass of wine, right?

Trendsetter that you are, no California chardonnay or sauvignon blanc will do, though. Only the hippest of wines for you, swinger. This moment’s “it” wine is so hip it’s not even a wine. It’s a place.

Climatically speaking, Uruguay is not so hot. It’s temperate and, despite some humidity issues, folks have been happily making wine there since the ’70s. (That’s the 1870s. Sorry, Pacer enthusiasts.) Much like Argentina, its neighbor across the La Plata River, Italian and Spanish immigrants flocked to Uruguay in the latter part of the 19th century and started planting vines throughout the country. Today, most wineries are clustered in the hills north of the capital, Montevideo, which lies at the same latitude of Mendoza, Argentina.

Inspired by the successes — and methods — of Chile and Argentina, the Uruguayan wine industry has made a push to produce better wines and get Americans to take notice. Even many nonhipsters know that Uruguay’s breakout varietal is tannat. And rightly so; I’ve had a number of rich, velvety tannats from Uruguay. They stand out from the rougher, tannic tannats of southwestern France, tannat’s ancestral homeland.

Tannat may be the rock star in Uruguay, but albariño is certainly the opening act. And, face it, even the most ironic wine lover isn’t touching a big, red tannat until Oct. 1. Albariño was made for this Global Warming Century … and hot summers in general.

Uruguay’s Spanish settlers most likely brought this white grape to South America, and it’s no wonder that it has found a happy home in Uruguay. With a thick skin that thwarts rotting, Albariño thrives in Spain’s humid northwest region of Galacia and Portugal’s Vinho Verde wine region just to the south. Both share similar weather patterns with Uruguay.

Rugged individualists have no problem over-chilling this albariño or even tossing an ice cube in the glass.

However, albariños of distinction, like those from Garzón, make for a great dining room companion with their bright, tart, citrus and stone fruit flavors. On the other hand, simple albariños, not surprisingly, were made for white sangria.

Even though you can afford more expensive wines, you know you don’t have to, right? A quality albariño won’t set you back more than 20 bucks, and your wine universe just gained a new star.

  • 2015 Garzòn Albariño, Uruguay
  • $17
  • Two Thumbs Way Up
  • Floral-like aromas of white peach, apricot and tangerine. Tart flavors of lemon, lime, pink grapefruit and blood orange with subtle note of toasted almond and a hint of vanilla.

Note: Wines are rated on a scale ranging up from Thumbs Down, One Thumb Mostly Up, One Thumb Up, Two Thumbs Up, Two Thumbs Way Up and Golden Thumb Award. Prices are suggested retail prices as provided by the winery, one of its agents, a local distributor or retailer.

Gil Kulers is a sommelier and maitre d’ for an Atlanta country club. You can reach him at gil.kulers@winekulers.com.

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